“Why not me?” This is the response that a person I know gives to people who ask the big question about her incurable disease: Why is this happening to you? And, in fact, I think that her answer is really the only one that makes sense. Religions spend a great deal of time trying to explain why bad things happen to good people, and the answers are many and varied. Perhaps it is divine retribution. Or it is God teaching someone (the afflicted, the surrounding community, the world) a lesson. Maybe it is all part of God’s plan. None of the answers are completely or universally satisfactory, and we will clearly not have the final answer until God provides it directly to us—at which point we will be well past the point of enduring suffering any longer.
The “Why not me?” response actually puts suffering in the context it probably deserves: the context of inevitability. As mortal, limited beings, suffering is simply unavoidable. All of us endure sorrow and pain and discouragement and isolation to some degree and with some frequency. Measuring human tragedy seems rather pointless to me. Trying to explain it is equally fruitless. I can’t say that I think any person actually deserves to suffer the unexpected blows of mortal accidents, incurable illness, debilitation of mind or body.
But perhaps we ought to wonder even more why our lives are so undeservingly blessed. Why do really wonderful things happen to one person and not another? Does that make any more sense than the tragic? Did I deserve to grow up in a stable home surrounded by people who loved me? Did I deserve to have four healthy children? Good health? Sufficient skills to cope with the demands of daily life? I certainly haven’t done anything to deserve those blessings any more than any other human on the planet.
Rather than trying to explain the allocation of suffering and joy, perhaps we ought to focus more on what we do about them. Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, did not give us the clear and simple answers to these questions—probably because the answers are neither of those. Rather, he told us how to handle mortality. He healed and fed and welcomed. He loved. He also enjoyed life and endured unexplainable suffering. He taught us how to live with one another and support and care for one another in the midst of our limitations and challenges. The best answer he gave us was that suffering isn’t the end. Resurrection is.