God knew we needed to experience pain and sorrow, but had not the heart to parcel it out. So he designed an imperfect world that would do if for him. When things go wrong I tell myself, "It is the design at work."
It worked a little too well last week. SIDS took the life of a 3 month old baby in my church community. Person after person spoke of it during our monthly testimony meeting. They tried to excuse God by finding some reason for it.
I caught myself unconsciously shaking my head. As much as I believe that God is loving and merciful, or perhaps because I do, I just can't buy that he plans such things for us. Like seeds scattered to the wind, there is no reason, it is random. It just happens.
But while I don't believe that God intentionally does these things, plants these seeds of sorrow at our feet, I do believe WE can find purpose in the things that happen to us and be comforted. We can experience the sorrow as he intended and learn from it. We can embrace the design.
When I was 9 my 3 year old brother died of an illness that had kept him in a vegetative state for almost two years. I don't think I appreciated until recently what my young parents went through, and the remarkable strength and courage they must have had to pull our family through it all. It was hard, but they knew--they KNEW--that this loss was temporary. And because they knew it, I knew it. Their absolute confidence in eternity was a building block in my own testimony.
At times here and there, I still think of my brother. I think of him on his birthday. I thought of him when I was getting married. And every now and then my daughter looks just like him. He has been an absent, but still inseparable link for me to the life that waits for us after we die. That life is more real to me because he is there. Whenever someone I know dies, I think of him meeting them. Even if he didn't know them, I imagine him introducing himself as my brother. It comforts me.
I don't know if I believe that God intentionally took my brother from us for these reasons. I think, in truth, it would have been better if he had lived. But his death is what the design offered us and we made the best of it. I cannot blame God, nor can I give him credit--other than to say, "It is the design at work."
I'd rather think that God controls everything so I can petition him and feel protected. But I don't think he ever promised protection from the design. He only promised to give us peace, not as the world gives us peace, but his comfort. Ultimately that is all we can count on--his lasting peace and comfort. It seems so puny in the face of such a cold and heartless design, but maybe it's more powerful than it seems. And perhaps we never discover just how powerful it is until we have to use it, really have to use. Only then, when we truly have to work for it, can we find it. Maybe that is the true purpose of the design, not to simply randomly assign pain and sorrow, but to bring us God.
It is risky, because it could drive us from God too. But that is something we can control. Although it takes an almost superhuman amount of courage to do it, we can choose to still believe that God is kind even when he allows wretched thing to happen us. We can still find "Tender Mercies" when we feel sad and discouraged. We can use our own experiences to sympathize with and help others. We can look at the trials we've endured and appreciate what we learned from them. We can survive a world that is often cruel and senesless, and come up loving. We can learn from the sorrow as he intended.
We can embrace the design.