It feels incomplete to talk about blame and free will without also talking about God’s will. This one is the scariest of the 3 to write about, but I’m committed to being honest, so I’m making myself do it.
When I was in high school, my best friend’s father died of a heart attack in his early 40’s. During the funeral, his best friend broke down crying while giving the eulogy. My friend’s mom calmly took his place, saying that she believed her husband’s death was God’s will so she was at peace with it.
That really bothered me. I was glad that it gave her comfort, but I could not fathom how God could want someone to die. If deaths are God’s will, how can it be a sin to commit suicide? Or murder, for that matter. Or acts of terrorism. All of these deaths would just be a part of God’s plan; these people were simply fulfilling their roles. In fact, sin wouldn’t even be possible.
There is someone in our tennis community who is reaching the end of her battle with cancer. Although I did not know her well, I was struck by how positive and kind she was when I met her last year. She was in the midst of chemo at the time, and she was my opponent on the court. And she kicked my ass. Which was both impressive and upsetting, given my competitive nature.
I have been praying for her and her family, but I struggle with what to ask God for if death is, in fact, part of God’s plan for her. I know some people don’t believe in God for this reason. Or if God exists, they don’t want to worship a God who would allow people to suffer. I wouldn’t go that far. It is clear from the life of Christ and the teachings of Buddha, and probably most religions, that no one is immune to suffering.
I accept that, but it’s still hard to tolerate. I try to imagine what it would be like to be her or her loved ones, but I can’t. My brain won’t let me go there. It’s too painful. Too much to bear. I can’t envision surviving a loss like that, even though I know that somehow I would if I had to.
I do my usual prayer. Because we’re allowed to ask, even if we don’t always get what we want. God, if at all possible, please let her have a miraculous recovery. And then I say a more realistic prayer. Please minimize their suffering to the extent possible. Please surround them with love, to mitigate the pain.
I am no theologian, but based on the story of Adam and Eve, one thing is for certain: God wants us to have free will. We, too, have the power to say no. We can choose not to follow God’s plan. We can choose not to love God, or not to love at all.
In the midst of tragedies, the people involved always say that they are humbled by the outpouring of love and support from people they don’t even know. That it does mitigate the pain. So I will continue to pray for this member of the tennis community and her family. If love can ease their pain, then I will choose love.