When Bad Things Happen to Children
September 20, 2011
When Bad Things Happen to Children
On my SiriusXM show recently, I spoke about the meaning of life, and then I got this email from Lisa:

I heard part of your program today and you read about the different thoughts about the meaning of life... I've been thinking about that, too.

As the mother of a child who is dying of cancer, like many of us, we are losing our faith in a big powerful "daddy in the sky" that hears our prayers. I've heard from Christians that "God doesn't give you what you can't handle" but I can't handle this. "God gives you strength to get through it" - no, He doesn't. I'm about to lose my mind... the pain is much too great to bear. I hear that this is God's plan, or that God needs another angel. If he needed another angel, he would just take one, HE WOULDN'T TORTURE THEM FIRST! How could he PLAN to put a child through this kind of HELL? What good could ever come out of this?

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. We wear gold ribbons, but only 3% of cancer research goes to childhood cancers. Does anybody care? Is the meaning of life only to do research on the "popular" cancers because they are the ones that will make money for the one who finds the cure? My son's cancer is so rare that he gets the same chemotherapy he would have had in the 1980s... it doesn't get researched.

Please tell me what the meaning of life is!

If you look at God as a "big powerful daddy in the sky that hears [your] prayers" and will give you what you want, and if you are a good person, you can't help but be disappointed on a daily basis. That doesn't seem to be the way it works.

I know no other pain on the face of the earth that is greater than a parent having to see their child suffer and die. I think parents would rather they suffer and die and trade themselves in for their kids. So, this is the worst torture, but this is not a test of God. That someone's child or husband or wife or parent or friend gets ill and dies is not a test of whether or not there is a God. There isn't a test of whether or not there is a God -- that's why it's called "faith." To say that "I'm dubious about God" because my prayers aren't being answered in the way that I want, is, in my opinion, never to have understood faith in the first place, but just to have played a social role in which you call yourself "religious."

There is no explanation for these things. And, I agree with Lisa when she writes: "If he needed another angel, he would just take one, HE WOULDN'T TORTURE THEM FIRST!....What good could ever come out of this?" I like that answer of hers. I think telling somebody this is God's plan is a little obnoxious and I always thought it was. It's your assumption God is planning this. You have no proof of that. People go back to the story of Job and what he had to suffer and Abraham who almost wiped out his own kid until God said, "I see you really love me. You don't have to do this."

There are some important concepts and issues here. When any of us says "I can't handle this," yet we make it through every day, we are handling it. "Handling it" doesn't mean it feels good or it's easy; "handling it" usually means we are surviving it and doing the best we can.

I don't understand all of the mass murders of the world -- Stalin, Pol Pot, Germany, Japan. I don't understand how that's God's will or God's plan. It doesn't make any sense to me, either. And I don't know how to put it together. I don't know how it's God's plan to have little children put in ovens and killed. Or mommies and their children shot to death and put into a hole in the ground, naked. I don't understand how any of that is God's plan. So, I have no answer to that.

This was not a theological thing where I was going to explain what life really means, other than there's always been horror. It's like the horror films you see in the movies where there's evil and someone in the church or somebody else finally squelches the evil and at the end you see the evil creeping up through the ground again.

There is evil, there is disappointment, there is pain, there is everything. So, ultimately, whether you really believe in God or not, we really need to hold on to each other. There is something about touching the hand of another who corroborates your pain. That's why with parents in this situation, I always tell them to find other parents in this situation. They will be the first ones to hug you and they won't get tired of hearing from you like other relatives will. It's not they get tired, per se, it's just they can't do anything to help and it's upsetting, so they don't want to hear it anymore. They are not being bad, they just don't know how to fix it. They feel guilt and they feel uncomfortable and then they start feeling anger. So, to go to people who have been there and done that is the way we hold on to each other. Some people call that behavior the way God helps you go through things which are inexplicable.

So, let's not call bad things that happen "God's plan," because that hurts people. God planned to hurt my kid? You're gonna tell me, there's some higher power and I'm supposed to rise above that pain and say absolutely "I adore you?" I think it's a horrible thing to tell people. I don't think it's good to tell kids God's an all-powerful "daddy in the sky" who can do anything. Well, then why isn't he doing it for me? I don't like when people walk out of a bus that just been in a crash and they are alive and everyone else is dead and they say, "but for the grace of God." What the heck does that mean? God intentionally wiped them out and kept you?

I think we want to feel special like we feel to a parent. God is some kind of extension of parenthood. We sometimes don't realize how cruel we sound. So, here's my frame of reference for all of this. There are evil things people do because they are evil. There are horrible things that happen just because there are horrible things that happen. The human body has weaknesses and that's just the way it is. There aren't cures for everything because we are not good enough yet to produce them. It's hard to get money for things only a few people suffer from - Lisa is right about that.

The bottom line is we've got to hold on to each other. That's the immediate salvation: to hold on to each other's love, support, and kind feeling. It's irrelevant if bad things are happening or not. The way to make it through life, I believe, is to really be compassionate and to be open to compassion. That's what helps you get through the things that are inexplicable and horrible.

Posted by Staff at 12:00 AM