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God´s Weakness
U. S. A. | NEWS | EDITORIALS
A reflection on the meaning and purpose of suffering after the loss of a child.

Jesus and a little child
The loss of a child raises questions that are not easily answered.

By Fr Vito Crincoli, LC

I have always found it next to impossible to speak to a parent who has lost a child. It is like trying to delve into a world that is not your own, and the more you try to do so, the more damage you can cause.

During my pastoral internship in Mexico while I was still a seminarian, one of the boys from our youth club was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident while riding a motorbike he had just received as a birthday present. His mom had constantly fretted that at 14 years old he was too young, but his uncle always said that if he wore a helmet he would be fine.

One afternoon, an oncoming minibus made an illegal turn, crossing in front of him. Unable to turn swiftly enough, the youngster fell. The bus rolled over his head, crushing the helmet, and he died instantly. The scene was gruesome: those who went to retrieve his body were friends of the family.

At the crowded funeral, friends and family alike had their eyes on the picture placed over his coffin: a baby-faced blue-eyed boy. If I had the ability to read minds, I am sure that I could write a whole book out of all the feelings that were expressed that day.

I waited a while before calling his mother to give my condolences. She didn’t speak long; personally, I think she didn’t want to speak to anyone. But I called her back a year later, and this time we talked at length. It was this same person, with those same eyes which witnessed such horror, who was asking me “why”? She was confused, hurt and even felt that maybe God was punishing her.

Listening to her made me feel even more incapable of helping her, because I didn’t want to say something that could rub more salt into her wound. I told her that to be angry with God is not a sin, but a manifestation of the confidence and love you have for Him. We let our anger out with those who we are closest to because we know that they will accept us the way we are. That’s the way God is with us.

What good comes from such a tragedy? We can improve safety laws in order to prevent similar situations. Maybe others will be saved, but that won’t bring your child back. It’s like murder: the killer has been condemned to death, but this won’t bring anybody back from the dead.

Those who suffer tend to question the power of God. If God is so loving and great, why does he seem so powerless in life’s toughest moments? How is it possible that young girls should die gruesome deaths, when dictators for the love of money and power destroy the lives of innocent women and children? Doesn’t God see the big picture? Is he weak in the face of evil, or limited in his power?

We know that God, who is Love itself, can never be the cause of evil. As a matter of fact, God desired that we should live in Paradise forever. But we were the ones who warped God’s plan. Here is the problem: God loves us, created us to be happy, and the way he showed that love was by making us free. God would never lord it over us. He trusts us so much that he allows our free choice and nature to take its course.

We have always heard that God can bring out of evil a greater good. But when and how?
Our Lady also understands what it means to lose a child.
Mary also understands what it is like to lose a child.

This sobbing mother told me many times on the phone that the passage of the Bible that she loved most was “love is stronger than death.” Our conversation was very enriching for me. She spoke of the happy memories she had of her son, the way he loved her and was always there for her. She seemed to constantly talk about the friends who were always close to him, the people he cherished. She said that these people were the presence of God in her life. Through them He was assuring her that everything would turn out alright. She began through her suffering to find God and know him better. Her suffering made her a better person, and she later went on to found an organization dedicated to those who had lost children in tragic accidents. This woman, after having undergone so much pain, now considers herself to be a “wounded healer.” God was not “weak” before this situation. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Sometimes it seems that the world would be a better place without pain. Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane seemed to say the same thing: “Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass me by.” But he knew that sometimes that isn’t the way things need to be. He was human; he was afraid to suffer what he was going to suffer and more; he knew that the world would be indifferent to his agony. Would it really be worth it to suffer so much and to undergo death to save a world that could care less? He felt what we feel when we confront tragedies and difficulties. But when we know how to face our difficulties, what happens then? When I fall on the path, after learning the lesson, what kind of person am I afterwards? As Tolstoy said, suffering helps us to see our limitations but, what’s more important, it helps us to know who we really are.

What does God’s promise say to me in my present situation? We are all undergoing some kind of suffering in our own lives. The key is our attitude before a certain situation. Maybe you made a mistake, or maybe you were betrayed, or maybe remorse for something in the past won’t leave you in peace. But those personal tragedies can help us grow, just like pruning makes rosebushes burst into more bloom.

There’s a reason behind what we suffer. God allows it because God knows what we need. But rest assured: he won’t let go of us or give us something we can’t handle in our lives. 

***

Editor´s note: For those who would like more resources on this topic, we recommend:


PUBLICATION DATE: 2009-09-06


 
 


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