Why did God allow my three-year-old baby to die a horrible death? a distraught mother recently asked, prompting Pat Robertson
that God may have done so for a good reason, like to spare the child a more horrible fate later in life. His answer, appalling to many, masks a more fundamental misunderstanding. The question itself blindly and simplistically assumes that God was involved both here and more generally when people suffer. But the issue of God\’s role is more nuanced, more enlightening, and potentially more comforting. According to the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, good people thrive and bad people perish, but according to the book of Job also in the Old Testament the question of suffering is too complex for humans. Job asks God why he suffered so much even though he was a thoroughly righteous man. God reminds Job that he doesn\’t even know how the earth was constructed. What makes him think he could possibly understand good and evil? According to Job, we are like a dog trying to grasp calculus when we try to understand suffering. We don\’t even know what we don\’t know. So in addition to Deuteronomy\’s reward and punishment, we find a second biblical answer to why this three-year-old died: the question is too complex for humans. A third biblical answer comes from the New Testament, which insists, like Deuteronomy, that people are rewarded in kind. The New Testament adds the nuance that things balance out only in the World to Come. Righteous people may appear to suffer (and the wicked may appear to thrive), but only on this earth. In God\’s eternal kingdom the righteous alone will flourish. This theology, also adopted by the ancient rabbis and therefore incorporated into Judaism as well as well as Christianity, can be comforting.
But in many cases, including the death of an innocent three-year-old, the answer falls short. A fourth ancient answer comes from the. Cut from the Bible in antiquity, that book contains the saga of Adam and Eve\’s life after their exile from the Garden of Eden. In one telling scene, Adam confronts the Devil to ask why people suffer. The Devil\’s answer, and therefore the answer of this fascinating work, is that people suffer not because of what they did but simply because that is the nature of being human. Everyone, according to the Life of Adam and Eve, is living in some sort of exile. Part of living life as a human is to lose what we cherish. We all have something that we thought we would always have a parent, a first love, a spouse, a child and we are all distraught when we lose it. But God didn\’t take it away. We are not being punished. We didn\’t do anything wrong. And we should stop asking \”why? \” Loss is part of living. Perhaps the most intriguing answer comes from the mysterious book of. Though not part of most people\’s Bible today, the New Testament quotes Enoch. And in the ancient Jerusalem that gave us the Bible, Enoch was among the most popular and widely read books. Enoch observes that even the angels disobey God. Genesis 6:4, summarizing a well-known account, explains that some angels mated with human women and produced wicked giants. (This is the wickedness that forces God to flood the earth. ) But angels, being immortal, aren\’t meant to procreate. Enoch concludes that God\’s world has gone awry. There\’s suffering in the world that wasn\’t supposed to be here.
This answer, then, complements the others. Maybe God rewards the just and punishes the wicked, either here on earth or in the World to Come. Or maybe the question of good and evil is too difficult for us. Or maybe suffering is just a part of life, and we\’d better get used to it. Or maybe this three-year-old child wasn\’t supposed to die. Joel M. Hoffman is author most recently of, which explores ancient answers to good and evil. Miscarriage may seem an odd thing for a mother to ponder after giving birth to a healthy, pudgy, baby girl. And yet, I am confronted with it. I feared miscarriage throughout my pregnancy, even having nightmares about losing baby Elowyn, and here I am blessed with a tiny, gurgling, kicking, and constantly hungry miracle of life. Two of my dear friends have had very sick infants lately. One baby needed emergency surgery. Another friend who is without a doubt is enduring pregnancy knowing that her baby has Trisomy 13, a rare chromosome abnormality that will render her baby not Бcompatible with life. Б б She refuses to terminate, because she has faith that God will work all things out in his own time for the good of their young family. Why does God allow babies to die? Some would say that death is the result of sin. Yet babies are the purest and most innocent of us all. Surely, the death of a child is not punishment for their own sin, or the sin of their bereaved parents. And yet, death is wrong. It is unnatural and unwanted. There is no disputing this. Here is what I believe: God loves certain babies so very dearly, that he takes them up to Heaven to be with him before they ever have a chance to suffer the hardships of this world.
God does not view death as an end, but rather as the beginning, because death in this world is merely the doorway into his. For certain little ones among us, God does not hesitate before gathering them up into his bosom. Their souls are too dear to him to be allowed to endure further suffering. He wraps them in his unending love, heals them of all pain and deformity, wipes every tear from their eyes, and assures them of his love and the love of their parents here on earth. Someday, we as parents, will join those dear little ones who have gone on before us. That day will surely be the dawn of an endless time of great joy. Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, БSurely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,Б even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my motherБs womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.