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Why is this happening to me?

Wednesday, 29 May 2019  | John Kidson

When was the last time you asked a question like:

Oh strike, why is this happening to me?

Perhaps it sounded more like: ‘Uh streck whee os dis hopping ta mah?’ Or just a silent moan with meaning – depending on how bad the head cold or flu! I reckon if I only had a dollar for every time I've heard that question ... But I’ve complained too - about losing a job or breaking my heart or misplacing my wallet. We all get uptight over the trivial as well as the important.

In saner moments we can cope: we are able to use Centrelink or RMS; we can even get our heart mended somehow. What about when you've been diagnosed with cancer, or your child has leukaemia or your partner has left for good? Then there are the shared problems as well … what about the air we breathe? Most of us in Australia today live with about 600 times as much lead in our blood as our great grandparents. Seventy percent of today's antibiotics are given to animals in stock feed. A precaution against infection? Partly, but also to promote growth. Then, as we eat meat laced with antibiotics we become antibiotic-resistant, encouraging bacteria to do likewise.

Things happen! Whee os dis hopping ta mah? How come I keep getting the flu? We're all to blame … it's collective guilt. Any unwell Australian would be less than delighted with that answer to the flu question. I don’t wish to give up my grilled T-bones so that the rest of Australia can be better at avoiding the flu!

So what is the answer to ‘big’ suffering? Is there even a correct question? You know the primary school saying about ‘why?’ being a crooked letter.

I had a close mate suffering the long painful battle of terminal cancer. Amazingly he didn't ask the ‘why’ question. He still had some questions, still longed for things to be different, still wanted more time with his wife, to see his kids at least become teenagers. But in the midst of his pain, anguish and stress he held two facts:

Suffering is not a normal part of life.

Suffering is God's best way in mercy and hidden wisdom to work out his good plan in the face of enormous opposition.

Huh? Let me unpack a little ...

1. God did not invent suffering.

2. It has never taken God by surprise.

3. It's under control.

4. Suffering's not good.

5. Its agents aren't good either.

God doesn't want us to suffer, but suffering happens as various human and spiritual forces exercise their freedom of choice. One-tenth of the Irish population died in the 1840s potato crop failure while over the water in England an abundance of food was being enjoyed.

Remember The Verve’s ‘It's a bitter-sweet symphony that's life’.

How then do we cope with tragedy? My mate considered himself a stranger in this world. He was with the African-American who sang: ‘this world ain't my home - I'm just passing through’.

On his death-bed, my mate shared his conviction that no-one can get a handle on suffering without seeing the relevance of the Crucifixion. That's when Jesus asked, ‘my God, my God why have you abandoned me’?

John Kidson is a former youth worker and uni chaplain, and occasional contributor for Engage.Mail.


Keith Binns
June 7, 2019, 5:30PM
This is the standard answer but I find it unsatisfactory. I think suffering is a normal part of life. Shit happens. See, for example, David W. Peters's 'The Post Traumatic God', which draws on the theology of Paul Tillich.
Keith Binns
June 7, 2019, 5:37PM
Or, if you prefer it poetically:

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