Tuesday, June 14, 2016

It Is Well with My Soul

a friend's 101-year-old mother recently had a major health crisis.  during her hospitalization she had several ups and downs.  one day she would seem to improve, and our friend would begin making plans to bring her mother home.  the next day, she would take a turn for the worse, and our friend would talk as if her mother might never leave the hospital alive.  after a little more than a week, our friend's mother was able to return home.  

our friend sent a text to all of us who were close to her and her mother that said something like, "thank God for answered prayers; prayers really do work."  my wife's response was, "she should be thanking the doctors and all those who cared for her mother in the hospital."  as i thought about what my wife had said, i was reminded of my own beliefs about "intercessory" prayer.  God had little (or nothing) to do with the recovery of this frail lady beyond giving the health care providers the skills to assist in her holding onto life, and i'm not sure that God deserves credit even for that.  the success of her struggle was owed to many: those who attended her in the hospital; those who devised the procedures and medications that helped restore her; a concerned and loving daughter; those who trained the doctors, nurses, and orderlies who attended her--the list could go on and on.

we have so many to thank for the good things that happen.  perhaps God is the first cause, but that initial impulse set so many things in motion.  they are all tied together and interdependent.  we are the products of forces that stretch back through the millennia, and the
smallest act can produce results that are unimagined and unanticipated.  life just happens, and we don't know why.  we search for causes and want there to be a god who is the cause rather than the randomness of living coupled with the deeds of countless others.

why did our friend's mother survive while others in the same circumstances did not?  there are so many possibilities--her will to live, the good fortune of exactly the right interventions at exactly the right time, maybe random good fortune--another endless list of causes for this result.  maybe it wasn't good that she survived.  maybe she will live the remainder of her life suffering physical pain, limited in her mobility, finding little enjoyment in life.  maybe her strength and courage to fight on will inspire others.  maybe her survival was a salve to her daughter's conscience so that our friend can feel that she has done everything possible for her mother.

always more questions, and the only answer is that life is what it is.  we can accept and find happiness where we will, or we can rail against what we believe to be the causes of our suffering.  may we be thankful for minds that question and for the resources to seek the way to end suffering.  may we say, "life is," and let that be enough.  shalom.

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