One problem we have with the spread of the Covid-19 Virus is that some people believe that they should not have to suffer or sacrifice their “liberties” to protect themselves and others.
In his book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” Rabbi Harold Kushner dispels a common myth about suffering and helps us see our way through painful situations.
The conventional explanation that God sends us burdens because the Almighty knows that we are strong enough to handle it is all wrong.
Situations in life, not God, send us problems. When we try to deal with them, we find out that we are not strong. We are weak. We get tired, angry, and overwhelmed. When we reach the limits of our own strength and courage, something unexpected happens. We find reinforcement coming from a source outside ourselves. In the knowledge that we are not alone, we manage to go on because God is on our side.
During difficult times, we faced scary situations, prayed for help, and found out that we were a lot stronger and able to handle things than we ever thought we could. We opened our hearts in prayer, and what happened? We did not get a miracle to avert the tragedy. We discovered people around us and God beside us, and the strength within us to help us survive the tragedy.
Many people rightly question how there can be a good and just God in the presence of so much evil and suffering in our world. God appears to be doing nothing to stop the suffering and pain. How is God loving and sustaining what God had created? That is our dilemma.
I believe that God is suffering Love. If we are created in God’s image and if there is so much suffering in the world, God must also be suffering. How else can we understand the revelation of the cross? Why else would the central Christian symbol be a naked, bleeding, suffering divine-human being?
Many of the happiest and most peaceful people I know love “a crucified God” who walks with crucified people and who reveals and redeems their plight as God’s own. For them, Jesus is not observing human suffering from a distance; he is somehow at the center of human suffering with us and for us. He includes our suffering in the co-redemption of the world as “all creation groans in one great act of giving birth” (Rom. 8:22).
Are we somehow partners with the Divine? At our best, we surely must be. Our rational minds will never fully surrender to this mystery until we are led by our soul and our spirit.
If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter. This is what happens to so many people who refuse to wear masks or keep socially distant, wash hands, etc. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it – usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.
Scapegoating, the practice of singling out a person or group for unmerited blame and consequent negative treatment, is a way of dealing with our unresolved hurt.
The Jesus Story is about radically transforming history and individuals so that we do not just keep handing the pain to the next generation. Unless we can find a meaning for human suffering that God is somehow in it and can also use it for good, humanity is in major trouble.
Only people who have suffered can save someone else. They alone have the space and the capacity for the other. Shared pain forms deeper communion and compassion much more than shared pleasure.
Let’s see our present Coronavirus situation as an opportunity to grow spiritually and deepening our faith in a God who loves us and who goes with us in the trials of life.