The Big Why

A loved one asked me recently, "Why did God cause this to happen? What lesson are we supposed to learn?" The context, of course,  was the COVID-19 Quarantine.

Here's the thing:

I don't believe God caused this to happen. Just like I don't believe God "gave " my oldest son Type 1 Diabetes at the age of four, or depression and anxiety at the age of 16. I don't believe God "caused" my husband to have PTSD or my other son to have a sensory disorder due to birth trauma (God did not cause the birth trauma either).

God caused none of this.

My loved one replied to my assertion, "But He allowed it. He's got to want us to learn something from it."

The underlying question is: Why does God allow suffering? And one of the big myths of the Christian faith is "so that we can learn something from it". Now, before you get overly excited about me calling this a myth, just take a moment to breathe and "Listen to UNDERSTAND what I mean, not simply to argue or dismiss." I don't mean that there's not an opportunity here to learn something. Quite the contrary. What I do mean is that God did not "cause" this to manipulate us into learning something. That is not how the Lover of our Souls works.


Many who ask that "why" question live insulated from the kinds of suffering that people in other parts of the world take for granted. Suffering is not new. We know this on some level, even if we don't think about it often. In fact sometimes guilt over how good we've got it is used to divert our attention away from processing the very real difficulties in life. So that's not the point either.

Quarantine is HARD. Re-opening a country so our economy avoids a depression level nose dive is daunting. People keep talking about "going back to normal" but there will not be a "normal" for some time. Maybe a "New Normal", but there has been SO much change, and it's been very hard on all of us.

Most people are grieving the changes and missing our pre-quarantine way of life. We need to give ourselves space to work through the hardship. Yet we must balance this knowledge with the fact that the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine is not the first time a "plague" or pandemic has been experienced.

Suffering has been around since the beginning of time. There's a series on Amazon called "How Climate Changed History." Every single disaster had people thinking the end of the world had come- many pleading for "the gods" to take them and relieve them of their suffering.  Suffering and grief are not unique to our generation or this particular season.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch woman whose family hid Jewish people and others targeted by the Nazi's in their home during World War II. They saved many. Then, her family was betrayed, most of them arrested, and several family members died while imprisoned by the Nazis. Corrie and her sister endured the horrors of emotional and physical torment and near starvation in a Nazi Concentration camp. Corrie's beloved sister Betsy died in Ravensbruck, but not before planning with Corrie to create a place for healing after the war.

Shortly after her sister's death, at the age of 52, Corrie was released-- just before all the women her age were sent to the gas chambers. After some much needed time to heal and physically recover, Corrie ten Boom began a ministry that started in her homeland and spread all over the world. As I young teen I devoured every book I could find written by or about her. I was fascinated by this woman who had lost literally everything and yet still loved and trusted God. A woman who had forgiven the very people who had tortured her and her beloved sister. Remarkable. 

When she visited America in the 80s, Corrie Ten Boom was struck by our lack of understanding of suffering. She noted that when suffering or loss occurs, Americans tended to blame God.

Corrie Ten Boom said that in other places around the world, toil and suffering was so much a part of the normal landscape that people did not have the mindset that God had "caused" or "allowed" suffering. They simply accepted suffering as a part of life. Suffering is intertwined with being alive. There is no "question" of God's intent for allowing it.  In many countries, and many cultures, even in the 21st century, suffering simply is. 

Corrie Ten Boom believed, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still." 


You see, it is not a question of "Why?", or "What we are supposed to learn?" Suffering exists because we live in an imperfect world. That's the answer to The Big Why.

What is the opportunity for learning? Well, I think it has a lot to do with re-framing. When we accept that there's not so much "a lesson", but rather an invitation, we will find what we are seeking. 

You see, contrary to popular belief, God does not control. He invites.

 God invites us to invite Him into our experience. God promises not to eliminate suffering, but to walk with us through it. God will hold us as close as we allow and provide what we need most in our deepest, darkest pits. Suffering will come in this life. Yet the answer is that we do not have to be alone in our suffering.

In God Calling by A.J. Russel, two "listeners" heard that we don't have to beg or plead for His presence because "our need is His call". We don't have to be "worthy" or "strong" or even "holy" for God to walk with us. We need only to be willing.

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