How can it be possible to be living in a place where it is so good to be, even while it is so hard to be there?
Here I feel more than ever that I have a purpose. Everything I do is something that may not be done if this hospital were not here. In the US, the system is such that ultimately I both feel (and am) replaceable. There is always someone else to take my place if I am unavailable. Here, I am unique, and my purpose is clear. And that makes this place one of the best things that has ever occurred in the course of my life.
On the other side of things, there is the boy with shrapnel in his brain who isn't going to live, the traumatized child with bilateral amputated legs, the stories of starvation and cruelty that leak out of Mosul like vitriol and eat into my heart even while I try to separate my knowledge from my emotions, so I can still do my job. It is hard to be here, able only to react and sometimes not even able to stop the pain or save the life in front of me. It is hard to care for the bomb-maker and the leering man who is most certainly Daesh, while the child in the next bed over sobs as he speaks about his dead family members. These are the worst things I have ever seen, the worst stories I have heard (on par with the horrors of the Holocaust).
And then there is the question. The one that I knew he was going to ask even before he spoke and wanted to know whether or not the bad things that happen to people are a result of their turning away from God. And if they are not, then why does God allow such things to happen? Not only in reference to Daesh and Nazis and wartime slaughter of human rights, but in reference to natural disasters. Why do they happen at all? Why does God let people die?
This question is not an easy one. And the answer isn't easy either. In fact, without an understanding of God's character, the answer is impossible to take. To begin, one must understand absolutely that God is good, and that God is perfect and just. He is never one without the other. He is a complete and perfect whole. Therefore, if God allows something to happen, or even causes it as is the case in much of the Old Testament, then it must be right for it to happen. To some this might sound horrifically naive, but I can assure you that this is not a simple Sunday school answer, although it would be if you just stopped there and never thought any deeper about it.
Going deeper, I have to look at the facts. First, if God decided tonight to wipe out everyone on the planet with some natural or supernatural disaster, it would be well within his rights to do so. He is the creator of the universe. He is so holy that even looking at his face would kill me. And I am not. I am a sinner, to my core, only clinging to life and hope because of the blood of Jesus Christ. God owes mankind nothing, and he already gave them everything.
Starting in that frame of mind, and with the premise that God is good and just, then I can look at events and see what possible good or justice might come out of such things. Of course, my view is still terribly limited. I cannot see what will happen in three generations because a famine caused this family to move from one country to another, or because persecution caused these Christians to disperse into the surrounding countries, or because this typhoon opened the door for Christian NGO’s to get into this country. Or because the sudden, horrific violence of one religion made thousands of followers realize it was not the true way. But I can extrapolate from what I have seen of God in the past and say that it will all work for God’s ultimate plan, which is the salvation of humanity.
This is the basis of faith, believing without seeing---hoping for what we are sure will come.
Sometimes, I do believe, it is only through the worst of times that the best things in life can be seen for what they are.