Spiritual leaders teach us that moments of pain and disappointment, even tragedy, will be the greatest opportunities for learning about the world and ourselves. Rabbi Kushner writes about the death of his son, in the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. He states, “I am a more sensitive person, a more effective pastor, a more sympathetic counselor because of Aaron’s life and death than I would ever have been without it. And I would give up all of those gains in a second if I could have my son back.” Anyone who has lost a child understands these words by Rabbi Kushner.
As a pastor, I have learned that many people believe that the Bible promises them a life free from pain and disappointment. In fact, the Bible doesn’t teach anything like that. All of the great religious traditions acknowledge that suffering is a part of the human condition. They teach us how to respond to suffering. Becoming a Christian–or becoming anything–does not shield us from pain, disappointment or tragedy.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus didn’t promise us a life free of pain rather he said that we might have life and have it abundantly. He affirms life and assures us that, even in the midst of hardship, life can be lived in all its fullness.
I do not believe in God in the same way I believed in God when I was a child, a teenager or a seminary student. Pain, disappointment and tragedy have forced me to rethink what I believe. In my relationship to God and my spiritual friends, I have found courage to face disappointment and strength to love. We do not suffer alone and there is always love.
- Take time to be still and focus on your heart
- Tend to your pain, present today or from long ago.
- Have these times of suffering, disappointment and tragedy changed your view of God or the world? In what ways are you a more sensitive person or sympathetic friend?
- In what ways do you experience the fullness of life?
 Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981; repr., New York: Avon Books, 1983), 133.