Why must there be suffering?
Fr. Jonathan Filkins
Tamika awakened and wondered why the house was so quiet, for it was a school day and her 17 year-old son was usually up and about showering, getting breakfast and generally making noise. Slipping on her robe, she padded down the hallway towards the teenager’s bedroom calling, “Jermaine, you had better not be in bed!” Opening the door, she became worried, as the neatly made bed was undisturbed. When she had left home, for her evening shift, he had texted her he would be at the house by eight.
With growing concern, Tamika called his cell phone and sent several texts, each with no response. Becoming frantic, she called his friends and the extended family. Each had no idea where Jermaine was. Peering through the blinds, she now recognized her son’s car was not in the usual spot; something she had overlooked coming home in the early hours of the morning.
Trembling with fear, the ringing phone startled the anxious mother. She answered, with a weak “Hello.” It was the beginning of her worst nightmare. From the other end of the telephone, came a deep voice of despair, asking, “ Are you Miss Tamika Ward and do you have a son named Jermaine?” When she answered, “Yes,” the reply was agony, as the person responded, “I am calling from Highland Hospital and we are very sorry. Last night, your son collided with a tree on Texas Flattop. We are not sure why. Unfortunately, it was some time until a passing car reported the incident. When the ambulance arrived, he was already gone.
Sobbing, the grieving mother dropped the receiver and fell to the floor, needing to hear no more. Her beloved son was gone. What sort of agony had he suffered? What was it like for him in his last moments. She shouted to the Heavens, “Why, O Lord, would you do such a thing to my child? He was so young! He had so much to live for! God, please, please give me your strength and understanding.”
Suffering. There may be no greater suffering than to lose a child, regardless of the circumstances. Given the normal course of our lives, the parents are supposed to precede their children in death. Yet, we all know this does not happen. We all know that disease, violence and circumstances may all deliver the unwanted news of an early death.
Suffering. It is not a topic we readily speak about. It is much easier to discuss more pleasant matters. However, suffering is all around us and it happens to each of us. The suffering and death of the Christ is evidence enough for us. In his ministry, he was regularly assailed by the ignorant, the antagonistic and ultimately, by the mob and his murderers.
He, being the Son of God and Son of Man, suffered. Yes, He suffered for us. Yet, by His example, He also suffered the agonies of the human condition. His mother, too, grieved deeply at the agony and death of her son. She too did not fully know the reasons for His death.
For we earthly mortals, God has let us know that He suffers with us.
Much of our “suffering” is self-imposed and created through our own thoughts, words and deeds. Some of our suffering is of our control, nature-made, or from the actions of others. Simply, as hard as we try, we cannot readily discern the reasons for our suffering. We do not possess the wisdom of our Creator, but the promise of the full knowledge of God, someday.
Father Filkins is Rector of St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Picayune.