I am, as best as I can describe it, a Roman Catholic. I was raised in the church, have had all the appropriate sacraments for a person of my age, and attend mass (most of the time). I would be most accurately described as a “cafeteria Catholic”. That is, I pick and choose those Catholic beliefs to hold dear, others I hold at a distance. I’m a skeptic at heart. I was a reporter, later an attorney. We take nothing at face value. Or, at least, we shouldn’t.
I prayed like I never prayed before when I was first diagnosed with cancer. Later, nothing focused my ability to pray like having a CT or PET scan. I felt like I found an open line to God. When cancer treatment was going poorly, I’d alternate between doubting God’s existence, to cursing Him, to begging Him for help. Such are the things God has to put up with when dealing with us humans.
From 2003 to mid-2004 or so, I was starting to feel like there really may be Someone looking after me. After my second relapse, a doctor told me further treatment would be a waste of time, but I was in remission for a pretty miraculous third time in three years. I was feeling truly blessed. Despite my ingrained skepticism, I was starting to “get religion”.
In June 2004, my brother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He died of the disease about two and a half years later. It shakes my faith. Why Bart? He was such a great guy. There are so many scum bag people screwing up the world who deserve an early exit, but it was Bart who died at age 46? All this talk of a loving, compassionate, all-powerful God made absolutely no sense.
Of course, all my life I’ve known that wonderful people suffer and die. Every newscast, every newspaper, is filled with stories of wonderful people meeting early, often gruesome, deaths. But I never really thought about it, because none of those people were known to me. Bart was my brother.
Why bad things happen to good people has been a topic of debate for as long as people have been capable of debating. From the Old Testament, Job, as I understand it, endured the most grievous suffering, and asked God, why? His response essentially was, I am way more powerful than you can possibly imagine, and I am utterly beyond your comprehension. I do what I do, and you’ll just have to obey my laws, deal with it and hope for the best.
Good a response as any, I suppose. I used to reason that people suffered so those of us not suffering (for the time being) can better appreciate the fact that we’re not suffering (for the time being). Jesus suffered and died at an early age, why not Bart? Why not me?
I would think there couldn’t possibly be a God, if there is something as awful as cancer running loose in the world (not to mention plagues, wars, famines, etc.). But I’d also think, could there be anyone as wonderful as my daughter (or Bart), without a God?
When I figure this out, I’ll let you know. If you’ve figured this out, let me know.