Photo taken at the Cemetery at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown PA 12/10/2015

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

I was visiting friends a while back.  We were catching up on our lives and the conversation turned to the topic of my faith in God.  The husband (I'll call him "John") spoke of volunteering in a church men's group.  So I was surprised when he said that he was raised as a Catholic, but he doesn't believe in God. It turns out, John watched his younger brother die after a painful, losing battle with an illness. "How could God let my brother suffer and die?" he asked.  

All I could think of was that some people make it a mission in their lives to somehow make their loved one's tragic death more meaningful, such as by taking up the cause to do research that can end disease, raising money or raising awareness, and so on.   

Sadly, I could not offer a satisfactory answer to appease my friend.  I made a vow to myself that I was going to search for an answer that could hopefully satisfy this brother's distraught heart.  

I think it might have been different if John's brother had been older when he died, but he was just a kid.  Too innocent, too young to have "deserved" such a death.  

Do we believe that we are entitled to a life free of hardship, suffering or pain? Do we believe that only "bad" people should experience suffering, and that the innocent should be exempt?  

I did a lot of searching, and most of the answers centered on God's will or God's love, or opportunity for us to repent of our sins and commit to a relationship with God.  But how can these answers be satisfactory to someone who says he doesn't believe in God?   

I have to admit, the best answer I saw was the most honest answer.  "I don't know why." 

I believe that there IS a God and He loves us, IN SPITE OF the fact that there is death and suffering in the world.  Why do we feel that if there is a God, then we MUST be entitled to happiness and a pain-free existence?  

God ALLOWS suffering but there are many instances when He protects us from it.  We just don't realize it when things go our way, because we don't choose to appreciate all the GOOD things in our lives.  

The question is, how to convince the nonbeliever to either stop blaming God or realize that God is still a God Who loves us, in spite of the bad, inexplicable things that happen to those we love?

Here are some basic tenets of the Christian faith:  

1. God sent His Son to live on earth as one of us.  He lived, breathed, ate, worked, laughed, and experienced pain.  

We may not think about the suffering that Christ endured on His last day on earth. The agonizing torture of being brutally beaten. Then to carry the weight of the heavy cross when He could barely stand, let alone walk.   

God didn't have to do that.  But He wanted to BECOME LIKE US, so that we could become like Him.  He wanted us to know that He doesn't ask anything of us that He didn't ask of His own Son.

The question is, why did Jesus agree to it?  

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."  (John 15:13)  

Imagine if a firefighter didn't want to risk his own life to rescue a child in a burning building. Imagine if a police officer didn't step into the line of a bullet to protect an innocent bystander. Imagine if George Washington and his band of soldiers refused to fight the Revolutionary War, to obtain freedom for the colonies in America.  

2. God gave us free will. We can freely accept His offer of a relationship with us. Unfortunately, not all people do, and bad things have happened as a result.  There are so many ripple effects when people exercise their free will.  Some intended, some unintended. This includes the most obvious ones like murder, robbery, or infidelity.  Less apparent are the effects of greed, or lies, and so on.  

3. God gave us stewardship over the earth and all that is within it.  There have been so many advances in science and technology, but many of these advances have skewed the balance of the planet.  There are countless subtle and obvious ripple effects to physical heath and mental health from industrial pollutants, pesticides, chemicals like BPA in plastic baby bottles, or benzene (which is found all over the place; both outdoors and inside the home).  There are all of the chemicals and preservatives added to our food supply.  Electric wires. Cell phones.  I could go on and on.  

God gave humans free will and the freedom to run amok on the planet Earth.  Many technological advances were beneficial to mankind, but many caused more harm than good.  Add in the element of human greed... mega-corporations are more interested in profits than in safety.  Officials protect multibillion-dollar markets from regulation.  Plus the deceptions, cover-ups and outright lies told to the public.  Ignorance.  Conflicts of interest.  

So... why doesn't God just heal every single person affected by the massive damage being done to the physical and mental health of people across the world?  Well, he could.  The problem is, if God were to miraculously cure all those suffering from physical and mental disorders, then industries that poison our foods and pollute our environments would say, "We aren't to blame.  It wasn't our product that caused these physical and mental disorders."  No, God made US to be His voice, His hands, and His feet.  WE are the ones who can stop big businesses from destroying our planet and millions if not billions of innocent victims.  

We can honor our loved ones' memories.  We can take what we know and try to change the world and make a difference.

God has not abandoned us.  If we want, we can choose to forget our bitterness and turn to God for comfort and peace.  He will console us and heal us and draw us closer to Him.   

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones." (Psalm 116:15)  

For God loves every person... to Him ALL children are precious in His sight.

And so, my friend, I have no way of knowing why your brother had to die.  Only God knows.  But as you can see, there are many possible reasons.  And my prayer is that one day, justice will be done to right all the wrongs on this earth.  And I will do all that is in my power to make this world a better place.  For the glory of God, who feels our pain.  And for the innocent children.

I'm sorry for your loss.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you... and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." (1 Peter 1:3-4,8)