“Life is a marathon, not a sprint”, goes the cliche. It’s true I guess, but sometimes it feels like both. And sometimes you feel like you’re being asked to do both at the same time with the flu. Friends with cancer, family members losing their job, kids struggling to grow up. Life is just hard much of the time. And yet I know I have it better than 99% of the other 7 billion people in the world. I’m financially comfortable in the freest country in the world with a loving family. If life feels hard to me, what must it be like for that starving Somalian mother who had to leave her child under a tree to save the rest of her children, as they walked hundreds of miles to a refugee camp? Or the 10-year old girl in one of too many countries whose parents were so destitute they sold her into sexual slavery, an unspeakable life without hope or love? Or the any-country mother whose only child, a soldier, is never coming home from one of the world’s hot spots? I don’t have it hard. The very worst day of my life is a walk on the beach in comparison. I have often asked “why me”? Why was I born to the “right” people, in the right country, with the right skin color, at the right time? I did no more to deserve my life than those women did.
It is this question of the inequity of life that helped me choose my path when I came to a fork in the road as an adult struggling with faith. As a fact-based person, I wanted proof, proof which I will never see. Resolving this dilemma was slow and painful. But finally, after wrestling with all of the classic questions, the question of suffering tipped the scales for me. While suffering in the world is evidence to some that God does not exist, I came to the opposite conclusion. My reasoning centered entirely on the narrowest of questions: if all there is for some innocent children is a brief life of suffering, never knowing even an hour of comfort or love, where does that leave me? With an existence so vastly unfair and meaningless that I couldn’t go on if that was all there was. And so I chose to believe, not out of any great faith or love, but out of a desperate need for their lives, my life, to have meaning. At least that was the basis at first.
As time has gone by since that desparate choice, I have slowly gained more foundation for my faith, all of it more positive than that original fear-driven decision. It’s funny, once I went all-in on belief, I finally felt full freedom to speculate on what God must be about. What I had always struggled with most was the image of an angry, vengeful God. As a parent, what I can relate to most is the image of God the Father, with an irrational capacity for love of His children, completely independent of anything they do or neglect to do. That is the image I focus on, and what a difference it has made in my life. I have peace, I have hope, and I have love. And I have strength…strength to face my own troubles, strength to help those I love face theirs, and strength to pray for those whom I don’t know, but whom I love anyway.
“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” –Friedrich Nietzsche