Why Me? Why Not Me?
I have cancer – or at least I did and may still have it. I had my prostate removed a little over two years ago but the surgery did not get it all. I then had a month’s worth of radiation treatments that seems to have eliminated the remainder of the cancerous prostate cells. There are no guarantees at this point, but a year’s worth of blood tests show no evidence of cancer right now. I live every day though knowing that it’s possible the cancer could reappear at any time.
Everybody experiences suffering. As a young man I recognized this but was also aware that I had not experienced very much suffering in my life up to that point. I somehow had a sense though that I eventually would and sure enough my time came. Now don’t get me wrong – I realize that the amount of suffering that I experience is very small compared to many other people. But there is a natural tendency I think for all of us to ask “Why me?” when we experience suffering. I think it may be more reasonable to ask “Why not me?”
Why should I be exempted from suffering? As someone who has studied the problem of evil and suffering from a philosophical point of view, I believe that God has created the world with the best balance of good over evil that could be created, given his commitment to create genuinely free creatures and preserve our freedom of choice. I also believe that God providentially can and does use evil and suffering for good in our lives.
We are not God’s pets. God’s purpose is not to just make sure that we are happy and content like a pet puppy or kitten. We are beings created with a much greater purpose. We are created in the image of God himself and as such God is concerned about the development of moral character and virtue in us, which comes from knowing him more intimately. As a basketball coach I know that pain and suffering can produce stronger and more courageous athletes. I think God uses suffering to help us become stronger, more courageous, and more compassionate toward others.
Prior to finding out about my cancer I was really wrestling with God about some things. I was angry with him about how some things had turned out in my life. But after a period of wrestling with God about this I finally came to a significant conclusion. Because I was convinced that God had proved his love for me through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for the evil that I had brought into this world, I decided that I was going to trust God. To be really specific I decided that I was not going to not trust God no matter what! Putting it in the double negative form was more meaningful to me. Shortly after this commitment I found out about my cancer. I can honestly say that the cancer has caused me to draw closer to God, because I trust that he is using it ultimately for my good and possibly even the good of other people around me (and who knows what other possible goods in the long run).
Now I realize that suffering can also push people away from God. It’s a matter of how we respond to God and the suffering. God’s purpose is always that it would draw us closer to him and that we would trust him. Some people think that God would never want us to experience suffering, but if it can be used to draw us closer to him and to make us more like Jesus Christ in our character then it can be used for good.
So rather than thinking “Why me”? when suffering comes your way ask yourself “Why not me”? What makes me so special? I find that many Christians have this mistaken idea that God does not want his followers to have any suffering in their lives and that once you become a Christian you should expect no more suffering. But there are two problems with this view. First, it assumes that we are like God’s pets and he only wants us to be happy and content, when he is really more concerned about making us into strong and virtuous people becoming like him. Second, the best witness Christians can be to people who do not believe is that in the midst of our suffering we count God as more satisfying than simply having health and prosperity. We trust God because we are convinced of his love for us and that will allow us to respond with courage and compassion in the midst of our own suffering.
Let me encourage you that if you are experiencing suffering, to trust God through it and allow it to push you closer to him rather than farther away from him. He loves you and really has your best in mind.
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