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Monday, June 15, 2009

In our darkest time: The role of faith

I've given short shrift in the blog to the role of faith in physical healing and emotional healing after loss, as this reflection by Dr. John James on the recent story by Cori Liptak made me realize:

I liked the story you sent out today about cancer victims/survivors sticking together. Many of us in the Christian faith community ask why there must be suffering and the story you passed along answers that question. Suffering is essential so that we understand the suffering of others. Once I recovered from the acute grief of loss of my 19-year old son to medical errors, I came to a new understanding of what my faith expects of me and where God was during my son's days of dying. God was there in those who came to us in our darkest time and showed uncommon compassion. No one really wants to be there when a child is dying, but God puts them there nonetheless.

And so it happened not long afterward that good friends at church lost a daughter to an accidental overdose of therapeutic drugs. And not long after this a co-worker lost her son for the same reason. Having experienced the loss of a child, I was able to listen to their grief, their doubts, their "what ifs," and their hopelessness. Because of my suffering I was able to minister to them in ways that someone who had never lost a child could never hope to do. It is promised to us that we can turn all things to good if we love God. I would never wish the death of a child on anyone, but even this can be made the basis for a good purpose in life.

I've concluded that his world was created intentionally as an imperfect place where suffering abounds. My faith tells me that we are to love one another, but there would be no need for love if there were no suffering. Suffering is the vacuum into which the Breath love enters to lessen the suffering. Unfortunately, the Christian faith community has come to suppose that by sufficient praying and righteous behavior all will go well. That is obviously not the case, but my fellow Christians keep at it supposing that somehow God is delivering specific blessings when in fact, God expects loving responses to others, and assumes that we are prepared to suffer and carry our cross as life hands us suffering.

John wrote the book "A Sea of Broken Hearts" after his son's death due to medical errors. His comments about the beneficial effects of suffering reminds me of an observation by Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." Rabbi Kushner's young son Adam had progeria - a rare, debilitating and fatal illness. Rabbi Kushner said the suffering certainly deepened his own spirituality - but that the rabbi would gladly give up all that gain to have his son back....

Advice to those who’ve experienced a tragic loss: Faith, and praying with others in your community, can strengthen your purpose in life.

Read another story on the healing role of faith.

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