Today’s question (actually, a question from last weekend) comes from Yvette. She writes: I just read a something where someone lost their 6 year old daughter, and some body said, “Sorry, God must have needed her more.” Excuse my French but, “Que se passe-t-il??? “. Why would God need a child more than their family? Why? To teach the parents some kind of lesson? It’s crud! I realize that we do not know how many days each of us has on this planet, but to actually say God needed them more? Why would someone say that? That would be a sure ticket for me to hate God if he’s really there.”
Thanks for the question Yvette. Let’s see if I can start a conversation.
There are some folks out there who believe that religion has two purposes: (1) to provide clear cut answers, and (2) to fix things. In order for individual to have faith, they (or someone around them) must provide either an answer for whatever is happening, or a fix for what has happened.
In the case you mentioned, it is impossible to do either of those things. There is no clear cut answer for why the tragedy occurred, and there is certainly no fixing the pain the parents are feeling.
If that’s the case, then what is a person to do?!
Sadly, some people are so compelled to do one of the two things that they end up blurting out any number of clichés that are intended to provide an answer. The “answer” they provide helps the individual feel better about themselves – since they had something to offer. Rarely, do they stop and think about the affect their “answer” has on others!
What people offering a cliché fails to realize is that their “answer” does FAAAAAAAR more harm than good.
So what other alternatives do people of faith have other than offering forced answers/clichés, or “fixes”?
They can offer a ministry of presence, instead. A ministry of presence isn’t offered in hopes of providing answers or fixes. Instead, a ministry of presence is intended to facilitate the loving and healing presence of God in that painful moment. A ministry of presence demands that the person of faith holds their ego in check (i.e. stuffs their desire to be the “expert” and offer the answer or fix) and instead offer their vulnerability.
When a parent in the scenario you describe cries out, “Why did God do this to my child?” – a person of faith can offer a physical expression of support (i.e. a hand on the shoulder or a hug) and say, “That’s a great question. If I’m honest, I’m asking myself the same question right now. I’m sure there will be time in the days ahead when we can share our experiences and insights in regard to the question you raised, but right now, I just want to offer myself as someone who can listen when you need to pour out your heart.”
Of course, it can be a HUGE challenge to follow up with that offer because sometimes a person in tremendous anger or pain will lash out and say things that are difficult to hear. But your ability to hang in there and listen allows the person a chance to have their pain acknowledged (not answered) and heard. Through that simple act of listening, a person can pave the way for healing and openness that can help those involved explore the questions later, when they feel ready. As you start to explore those questions, please don’t be afraid to reach out and engage important resources like a pastor/rabbi/imam.
So how about you? What do you think?