This afternoon, after church, I got a very disturbing phone call. It was from a man that I helped years ago get clean from drugs and alcohol.
His daughter committed suicide this week.
When he told me this, I was shocked.The first thing that I wanted to do was to say something stupid to try and deal with the information that I had just gotten from him.The man got straight to the point.
“Keith” he said, “you have been talking to me about this God of yours for the last 25 years and I want to know where the fuck he was this week when my daughter decided to kill herself.”
I was silent. My mind was racing trying to find an answer for this question. I was not having much luck.
“Do you think that he is punishing me for the bad things that I did in my life?” he asked.
Now I was able to answer him with a standard church answer for his question.
“No” I said.“God has forgiven us for everything we have done wrong on the cross and we can be sure that this is true.” I said. “Your daughters suicide was definitely not God’s will.”
I had a terrible feeling deep inside me about the answer that I had just given him. I felt like a hypocrite. I knew that if God really didn’t want this to happen then he would have stopped it from happening. What’s up with that?
Every day all over the world there are people dying in the name of religion. This is why I don’t believe in religion. I believe in God.
Over the years I have come to believe that there is an opposing force to the goodness of God. Some people call it evil. I have seen this force up close and I can tell you that it is real.I tried to give the man on the phone a better answer.
I told him that it was maybe the devil that was behind his daughter’s suicide.
This answer pissed him off even more.
I took a risk.
“Sandra killed herself because that was what she wanted to do.” I said.
“She made a choice and God will not stop the consequences of our choices.”
My friend started to cry.
The truth is that I have no answers for these questions. This is why my belief in God is about faith.
I decided to be honest with my friend who was grieving the death of his precious daughter.
“ I just don’t know why God let her do it.” I said.
“Thanks”, he said. “Now you are being honest.”
For the last few hours, I have been thinking about this conversation and I must admit that I struggle every day with these same questions. Why? Why? Why?
The fact is that more will be revealed to me when the time is right. The answers that I am looking for are not in my head. The older I get, the less I seem to know. When I was a teenager, I thought that I knew everything. Now I am 54 and I am aware that I really don’t know shit.
What I do know is that this world is a place where tremendously evil things happen. All of these things are designed to help us see our need for a good, loving God that can heal the wounds that have been inflicted on us by human beings. And our problems are here to teach us lessons, whether we like it or not.
But I have hope.
I have hope because I witness random acts of kindness every day. I see the people that dig through the rubble of bombed out buildings looking for people that they can help. I see the volunteers that feed starving children and I see the people that are happy to visit an old person in a nursing home once a week.
I have hope because of people like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. I have hope because of you.
There is so much goodness in all of us and my prayer for myself today is that I will be a light in dark places. I understand what it means to fail miserably and I seem to be attracting others around me who have done the same. I have a message for them.
The message is this;
Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Don’t give up and don’t blame God for the choices that people make.
I personally believe that Sandra, the woman who killed herself, is in a much better place now. She is with God.
And now…. she has the answers.