a few days ago, a friend's ninety-four-year-old mother fell and broke her hip. that same night at our church potluck dinner, we prayed for my friend's mother, a member of our congregation who is having surgery to remove a malignant tumor, and another member who had just had back surgery. the leader prayed for healing for all these who were suffering, and i found myself uncomfortable with his prayer. another member of our congregation passed away a couple of weeks ago after a protracted battle with cancer. many among us had prayed that he would be cured, but i wasn't one of the many--not that i didn't want him to get well, but i don't believe that's how life works.
when we pray for healing for a specific person, what are we asking for? are we saying that we believe that person won't recover unless we pray for his or her recovery? what do we believe about the source of the injury or disease? did "God" will it? if so, why? if God is all-knowing, doesn't God already know about the problem, and, if so, why would God need us to pray for intervention? does God intervene in a person's life to affect a cure for a disease or injury that an all-powerful personal God could have prevented in the first place?
i simply can't believe in this sort of God anymore. life just happens, and it has nothing to do with God. God is not willing people to hurt so that God can teach them or their loved ones some lesson or to demonstrate God's power through a miraculous healing. God doesn't cause people to die because God wants them to come home to heaven. elderly folks fall and break bones. people are afflicted with terrible diseases. none of this is caused by the will of God.
so, what is God's role in our suffering? my belief is that God is there suffering along with us. deep in our core, we can know that we are not alone. still, it's our job to deal with the suffering, to accept life on its own terms, to find solutions if there are solutions, and to admit that life is what it is with all its difficulties and pleasures. it is wrong to ask a God who could have prevented the suffering in the first place to now fix what God allowed or, in the view of some, caused to happen. what sort of a God is that? the only answer is that such a god is cruel and vindictive, a god who pulls our strings like puppets in some divine play.
may we not ask God to solve our problems. may we draw strength from knowing we are not alone, while using the resources we've been given to deal with whatever life throws at us and being grateful that we have those resources. may we support one another as we muddle through. shalom.