Her name was Ashley. She was 28-years-old. She died a few years ago. Reading about her death over coffee and cereal made me sick to my stomach. I did not know her, but it sickened me to read her story. She was a police officer who lived in Woodridge, VA. One of her fellow officers said, “She had a passion to serve others.” She died answering a domestic dispute—i.e. a fight at home. Get this, she died the first day on the job.
When I read that, my heart sank as would yours, and I said, “Dang, life’s not fair.” It’s not.
OK, sometimes it is. In high school there was this girl who was mean as a snake. Nobody liked her. So, now at your 30-year-high school reunion, she is sitting by herself. Nobody talks to her. She’s on Facebook and has two friends. She got what she deserved. Sometimes life is wonderfully fair.
Only human beings can ask why. We’ve had several dogs over the years. I don’t think any dog lies around and wonders why we don’t feed her more table scraps or wonder if she can make it through another Presidential election.
We humans can reflect on our suffering and ask why. We can ask questions that probe into the very meaning of our existence. The Old Testament character, Job, asked why. No one has ever suffered more than Job, (except Georgia Tech football fans.) “After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (3:1). “Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?” (3:11). When we ask why we are challenging the very nature of God.
When we ask “Why me?” we are challenging the justice of God. In other words, I don’t deserve this. Why me? When we ask “Why this?” we are challenging his wisdom. Wouldn’t something else have been better? And when we ask “Why now?” we are challenging his power. Why didn’t you do something? We often ask, “Why doesn’t God do more?”
I was pretty good at math in school. I took Algebra 1 and 2, Trig, and Calculus. I’m one of those who never quite figured out how math would help me in my work. Algebra has never helped me in hospital visitation nor has Trig helped me much in planning a church calendar. Educators tell us that math helps to stimulate our brains, and so it is good for everybody. I will take their word for it.
I was pretty good at fractions—you know, 1/8, 2/3, 5/8, etc. That has come in handy in life, as in “Natalie, if this is a 1/8 sale, how much will the new dress cost?”
I never thought that fractions would have any theological significance.
We call it the problem of Theodicy. If God is good and if God is all-powerful, then why so much pain? And so critics say, either God is not good or God is not very powerful. Because if He loves us, then He would not allow so much pain. It’s a problem. There is a lot of pain.
My answers to the problem of theodicy are only fractions. I have partial answers.
Well, it’s October again and my mind reflects on my partial answers. All of the great losses in my life happened in October. My dad, older brother and wife died in October. It used to be my favorite month, with fall colors, beautiful blue skies, the World Series, and college football. Now, not so much.
The problem of theodicy is a very personal one for me. Sheri was the best person I ever knew. She died at the age of 51 after a long, courageous battle with cancer. She should be teaching fifth grade kids now, but she is not. What a shame.
My faith tells me that someday I will understand. I’ll cling to that.