Thursday, September 27, 2012

Questions for God

I once heard someone say that there is much more equality in human suffering than we realize.  That no one is spared.  That everyone is tried at some point, at some time, in some way.

I don't know if I agree.  I would like to agree.  Heavens knows I would like to believe that my suffering is neither greater nor less than the suffering of those around me.  That it all evens out in the end.

But I guess that I have a hard time believing this when I read my students' journals.  One prompt they were supposed to answer was, "What's the most difficult thing you've ever been through?"


Students poured their hearts out to me. 

One student openly told me of when he "came out", and the bullying that has ensued in his life ever since- the threats, the sneers, the jabs.

One student told me of her father who committed suicide.


One student wrote about being forced to live with his mom's abusive boyfriend for four years and wanting to leave so bad, but being trapped there because his mom was so broke she couldn't afford to move anywhere else.

One student wrote about her experience taking her parents to the hospital because of alcohol poisioning.

One student told me of a deformity she has had since birth, and how throughout her life other students have tormented and teased her, mercilessly calling her ugly.

One student confessed to me that she was raped by her cousin and is now pregnant, but too afraid to tell anyone.
Then, there are other entries.

One athlete said the hardest thing he ever went through was football practice every day at 8 am in the summer.

Another admitted that not having a girl crush him back was his biggest trial.

And one girl.  One girl told me her most difficult experience was when she went with her family on a cruise and couldn't have her cell phone for a week.

How can I read these entries and truly believe that there is equality in human suffering?  How can I look at my students and see the ones who struggle so much, who are faced with unspeakable trials, and hold them accountable on the same level as those who have had easy, cushy, comfortable lives.

I admit, that when my dad died I was mad.  Mad at people who have never suffered.  In an instant I was admitted to the club that no one wants to be in- the club of those who have lost loved ones.  I couldn't help but look around at the people in my life and wonder why it had to happen to me.  Why do I, who have honestly tried my hardest to honestly be a good person, have to suffer this enormous grief when there are so many awful people out there who live easy, griefless lives.

Even now, I grimace when I hear people say things like, "Yah, I'm lucky.  Nothing really bad has ever happened to me."  I wonder what they are trying to prove by saying this.    That God loves them more?  Or are they just being insensitve?  Insensitive because they have yet to acquire the sensitivity that comes with immense grief and heartache?

As I look at my students and know of their trials and their struggles, I can't help but pray that God has it all figured out.  That there really is equality in human suffering like the say, and that He hasn't just dealt some a bad hand, while stacking others with nothing but Aces.

All I know for certain is this.  I've got some questions for the Big Guy next time I see him.

34 comments:

  1. Great entry! I wonder the same thing of course. Let me say this, you must be a wonderful and trustworthy teacher for your students to tell you these things. There aren't many good teachers out there like you! Keep it up! You can make a difference in these kids lives:) That is definelty a gift you have.

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  2. I'm not going to go into a long spiel about the things in my life that have just completely sucked.

    But I do want to thank you for this post.

    My own relationship with God is tarnished because of things I have been through and things I keep going through. I don't understand why it has to keep being me. Why I can't just be left alone with the life that I was handed (b/c the things I refer to happened when I was a kid and not my fault) and why I can never be "blessed."

    I read your blog all the time and even have your post about sponsorships saved but I'm absolutely horrible at commenting (Sorry about that!) and I just had to comment on this one. Thank you :)

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  3. Good post. I like that your students are willing to openly share their struggles with you. Can I be honest? I'm one of the blessed in that I haven't lost a close loved one or experienced anything like those students of yours. However, I have no doubt that my time will come. Life on this earth isn't supposed to be wonderful. If it were, we wouldn't really long for heaven. Please know I don't say that to attack or make anyone feel guilty for being angry at the cards they're dealt-I don't know how I'd feel if I'd been raped by a family member or lost a parent to suicide. I just know that God is in heaven, and He has promised us a home there with no death, mourning, crying, or pain. I pray I can remember that verse when I am struck by tragedy.

    I think if I could go back to high school, I'd love to have you as a teacher!

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  4. I openly have said it isn't fair. All the time. My dad passed away when I was 11 and I have always felt jealous to those who weren't in that club. Right now as I am dealing with my Mom's death I can't help but saying it isn't fair again. I hate hearing that there is a bigger plan, but I know its true. It just sucks not to know it.

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  5. First, it speaks volumes that your students would share such things with you. The must really trust you.

    I think struggle is somewhat relative. I have struggled more than some but less than others. In the past, I found myself getting jealous at friends that were "lucky" and didn't face the kinds of trials I had. But when I really think about it, I don't think they would have been able to handle what I have handled. They just weren't made to.

    I really believe that even the worst things happen for a reason. I don't think that reason is always clear, but I can the trails, the losses and the moments that pushed me to my emotional ledge, all have gotten me to where I am today.

    You're allowing those kids an outlet. You are giving them someone to trust. The trials of others can be heartbreaking, but each ones serves a purpose.

    I'd like to think God knows what He's doing!

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  6. I think there is a lot of equality in suffering because the only ways you can avoid it are to die young before you've had a chance to suffer or to never care for anything outside of yourself (which isn't really living). Even the lucky eventually will have to start saying good-byes. I read a quote from C S Lewis a few days ago (this isn't word for word, memory here) that to love is to have your heart broken or at the very least wrung; to avoid pain you must love nothing, not even an animal. I also love the book "The Little Prince" which has a lot to say about how pain can enrich the human experience and how to really live you must feel hurt.
    Of course, when going through pain, all of this is meaningless. In the ache of the now, all the "well, life isn't fair" "this will only make you stronger" "you won't be given more than you can bear. . ." etc comes off as mere platitudes, which is why if we were dealing with addressing a particular person who is in pain at that moment, I wouldn't use them. Laws and hard facts don't give us the universe we live in any more than understanding the physical causes and symptoms of a disease bring comfort to it.
    You could say to most of the students, well, it wasn't God who hurt you. It was the people who chose to do wrong against you and because of free will, God has to allow such people to do evil, but would you really want to? A person suffering from a disease doesn't want a list of causes and symptoms. They want relief. They want sympathy or empathy. They want love.
    Yes we live in a world where there are actually many good reasons for suffering. There is actually a lot of justification and theological logic and arguments to be made, and if we are dealing in theoretical pain, arguments are interesting and profitable in an intellectual manner, but when you are dealing with people, I would argue that those people really don't want to know why. That they wouldn't be satisfied by why. Even if you could give them a perfectly sound, logical reason for why, it wouldn't take the pain away because pain isn't logic. Pain isn't theoretical. Pain is . . a problem. And sometimes God isn't there to tell us why because He knows that isn't what we need. He knows we just need love and He's offered that all along.
    And as people, when someone who has had a hard life asks why, sometimes it is best for us to say, 'I don't know" and offer them real love rather than answers.

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  7. What a great thought provoking post. I honestly believe that people who haven't suffered are not trying to be insincere. They honestly just don't know what it is like, they can't have those views until they have experienced those feelings for themselves firsthand (Well most people anyways, some people who are really selfless and empathetic may be able to relate but I feel like that isn't true for most of the general public).


    I used to be that way until I went through a horrible personal experience last year. Now I know what it is like to live with a different mindset. While I am thankful it has made me a more empathetic personal overall (I am now aware that many people fight personal battles everyday in silence), I would trade anything to go back in time and not feel the hurt I have to live with now.

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  8. amazing perspective Bon, I think the same things all the time about the cards we're dealt. It's a hard to grasp a concept where things are equal. I really can't think of anything more to say, other than this post really spoke to me and held on to my heart. Thanks for sharing .

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  9. Bonnie! Can I just say how wonderful and refreshing I find your honesty? I have wondered about the same thing. I am one who has, relatively speaking, hasn't experienced many trials or serious heartache. However, I have seen those around me go through immense pain. Recently, a family I know lost their husband/father. Not only was he one of the most Christ-like people I have ever known, but so is his family. As I sat at his funeral and heard his family talk about the hope they have, and how grateful they are that they get to see him again, I had a mini epiphany. Maybe this will help you understand the equitable division of trials and heartache... It helped me reconcile it a bit.

    Father in heaven and Christ know us better than we know ourselves, agreed? Our mortal experience is designed to help us to become like Christ, agreed? The tool Father in heaven and Christ use to help mold us into who they want us to be is trails and heartache, are you with me? So, if we know that they know us best, and they know what is best for us, and they understand how to get us from point A (our current, pitiful selves) to point B (nothing short of awesome) then they provide us with the life experiences we need to get there, regardless of how much it hurts us right now.

    I heard once that we only grow at our breaking point and the harder the trial, the faster we grow. I think because our perfect savior knows us perfectly that He understands what we need to happen to facilitate that growth, and on His own time table. Maybe your students haven't yet reached the moment when they will be tried the most. I have to believe that mine will someday come. So maybe the equity in suffering has more to do with what we need to get where Father in heaven wants us to get, rather than what we deem fair. Whatever the reason, whatever His time table, as I watch people I know and love suffer, I have to believe there is a reason why God would ask them to pass through such an experience. I have to believe He does it out of love, even if we can't understand it now. And I have to believe that someday He will ask me to suffer more than I ever have before. I don't know if this makes any sense, or if it even helps, but I hope it does. :)

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  10. This is a really beautiful, raw, honest post, and I appreciate you writing it.

    I wouldn't judge those of us who say we haven't suffered much. I vividly remember a conversation I had with my dad a few years back, right after I turned down one dream internship to accept another. I said, "I still can't believe this is happening to me. I just... I feel really badly for the people who aren't getting everything they want in life."

    His reply? "Well, part of it is your outlook on life. People with a more negative attitude might say 'Oh, poor me, I have this horrible disease, it's ruined my life.'"

    Because I was diagnosed with Crohn's when I was only 8. Having an incurable disease sucks, but there are a million worse things that could happen. My twin brother is recovering from recent surgery to have a brain tumor removed. It's a completely different level of being sick.

    I don't know why God lets bad things happen to good people. I'm just eternally grateful that She's chosen to allow more good in my life than bad, and She's given me the strength to shoulder the bad parts.

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  11. I love your blog, but I just want to express concern that they might be able to identify the student who was pregnant and know she was raped by a cousin. That is something that could really impact a student if it was spread around.

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    1. I agree, out of concern for that young lady I would take out that line and these comments about it bonnie.
      Love your blog, your honesty, just concerned.

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  12. Wow, this is such a good post!

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  13. For me, it helps a bit when I remind myself that no one has given us a guarantee that everything will be nice and smooth in life. There are no guarantees in life, just reality!

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  14. This post speaks volumes because (1) it's obvious that your students trust you to no end, and (2) you have such strong students. I was up all night thinking about this.

    I, for one, don't think that I would have been able to share some of the things that I went through growing up. I've just always been a very reserved person when it comes to personal suffering, and I never felt like I wanted what I thought was the pity of others.

    I think suffering is what helps people grow and mature. WIthout it, people can just go through life ignorant of the human condition, which includes suffering and hardship, because nobody is perfect. Your students are still young. Many people I know were sheltered growing up, and it wasn't until college or later that they experiences serious emotional pain.

    I believe that God sometimes allows us to go through pain and suffering so that when we are completely broken and crying out to Him, He can pick us up and help heal us in a way that only He can. I know that I'm mentally and emotionally stronger because I know God got me through some of my darkest moments, and if He can get me through that, there's nothing He can't do.

    I write this novel to say that I really and truly appreciated this post. It's nice to get a little perspective once in a while :)

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  15. Its surprising what kiddos will spill to you when you really allow them the chance. I did that with a kiddo a few years ago and he was telling me things that no one should ever have to go through. But it helped him a lot and that's what matters.

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  16. Holy cow! Those poor poor kids! And also the last one about the cell phone! Oh my gosh! I always wonder about the people who seem to get hit constantly with super tough trials. How do they do it over and over again?

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  17. What an eye opener! So many of those confessions break my heart and it's hard not feel mad for them. I believe he has it all figured out too, we just don't.

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  18. Break my heart. I feel like if I had these types of letter from my youth I would be crying all day long. So many people don't realize what these kids go through and what they have to endure every single day. (So... thank for the reminder of why I do my job?)

    This is something I was thinking about last night actually. I was throwing myself a pity party about what's been stressing me out and I had to keep reminding myself that there are people who have worse problems than I do.

    I don't know why some people suffer more than others. We just live in a messed up world. And those who haven't experienced trials - they will. Everyone does. For some people it looks different, but they will still experience it. Or they are lying.

    I do know that God is with us and holding us through it, and he will always be by our side no matter what.

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  19. When I was driving home from college to my mom's house the night she died, I was feeling the exact same way - what God?! Seriously? I already lost one mom I can't even have memories of because I was so young, and now another one? A good friend died the year before, two friends died in high school, my dad was out of the picture, did I attract bad things or something? But I came to realize that no, I wasn't dealt a bad hand, I just have different challenges than the next person. We all have challenges and at the time they seem so terrible, like the worst thing that's ever going to happen, but someone always has it worse. And there is comfort in knowing that life is bigger than just us and when you have that perspective, the "worst" doesn't seem so bad.

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  20. I too, feel like I am part of the "Why me" club and "Losing a family member club" Although my parents are still alive, I have lost a child of my own. Believe me that is definitley a "Why Me" moment and a Questioning my faith moment. But like one of the other women said I truly believe that situations happen to people that are able to handle them. God knew that he would be better suited for our little man and that he could be the best son/brother/cousin/angel any of us could ask for. I hope everyone that has triumph in their lives can emerge from the "Why Me's" to "Thank You" in understanding that the "plan" is bigger than us.
    Love your blog! -- New follower yesterday!

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  21. I would have been a blubbery mess Reading through all those. And then I would have wanted to punch cell phone girl. Yes yes I know punching is bad. I have questions for the big guy as well!

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  22. Those students that have had much suffering have SO much to bless this world with. Their stories are going to change lives. I hope they realize this. I hope YOU realize how much love and support you can offer to those who have lost loved ones. I am a total believer in the fact that one's greatest sorrow can turn into one of their greatest joys. Without these hardships, the world would be a lot less passionate.

    Thanks for sharing your heart today. And for the reminder that even when I think I have it bad, it could be so (so) much worse.

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  23. What a great post! These questions are pondered by many. I, too, work with children (younger ones) and they do cry out. We just have to listen.

    And I agree with you, I hope it's evenly distributed. There is also the saying "life's not fair". Sbd unfortunately, sometimes it's not.

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  24. How heartbreaking that some of those students have to go through things like that, at such a young age. I can relate a little bit, as my life got a whole lot harder when my parents divorced and us kids were thrown to the wind.

    I do think suffering is relative. What one person sees as horrible (no cell phone? really?) another might judge as nothing.

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  25. God never said there is equality in suffering. I'm sure some people like to think that because they don't want to believe God plays favorites, but it's just not true. Some people have relatively good lives while others have been through experiences that no single person should ever have to face.

    But none of it has to do with God dealing hands to people and paying favorites. It has to do with SIN. We live in a broken and dying world, all because sin entered into the garden. There's no rhyme or reason to it. Everything is broken and so bad things just happen.

    But the good news is? God is redeeming this broken world everyday through Christ. Thankfully Jesus died for every.single.sin ever committed or to be committed. And He's promised to return and establish a new heaven and new earth where there is no more sorrow, suffering, pain or death. Until then, we just have to trust Him, pray for those in need, and give a helping hand when we have the opportunity.

    As you said, HE has it all figured out. HE is the reconciler (Colossians 1:15-23 :)

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  26. Everything Jessi said is exactly what I believe as well. I don't believe there is equality of human suffering. I just don't.

    My heart breaks for your students. Thankfully, there is (hopefully) many more years of life ahead of them. They are still so young and have plenty of trials and blessings to experience.

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  27. i love this post and have often thought about your questions. Usually i just hold on to the fact that "where much is given, much is required" if for some reason those kids in your class never experience emense trials in there life at one point or another they will be required to be that much better of a person, that much more giving and appreciative. I also know that because of the atonement those people who struggle so completely in this life will have that many more blessings in the life to come and Christ will take them and tell them that they endured to the end. The distribution of trials will not be fair but i think that we have a long life that somewhere in there will be a really hard trial.

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  28. I'm in the same club you are in. That no one wants to be a part of but doesn't have a choice in the matter. I felt the same things you did and still do. I actually just posted to my blog about my dads death yesterday. Hardest thing I have ever written. And longest. But as I wrote it I thought about the people who would read it. The people who don't get it unless they are in the club. And it made me angry. Makes life seem unfair doesn't it. My heart brakes for those students that had the courage to pour their hearts out to you. To speak their truth. There is no denying that they are brave humans, at the very least. Let me know what the Big Guy has to say...

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  29. I"m in a low mood- been sitting at the airport for 6+ hours. Came to your blog for a laugh. And now I want to cry. And my airport sitting no longer seems so awful.

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  30. this post is awesome. and raw. and honest. and makes you think. it breaks my heart that KIDS have to have that much pain in their life at a young age. i would not have been able to read those journals without crying and then wanting to shake the student who complained about no phone for a week. this was a great share. thank you!

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  31. My daughter is in your class. She, we, have had many trials in the last couple of years. There were times where I felt like God must be angry with me because he was hurting all my loved ones. My Mom died over a year ago. I was very depressed for so long. I just noticed very recently that I started to laugh again. It took a long time, but I am slowly but surely finding my footing. I am so sorry to hear you lost your Dad.. I can't tell you it will be easy to get over, and that time heals all wounds. It's taking a long time to get over losing my Mom, and sometimes it hurts as though we lost her yesterday. But one day you will be taken aback by your own laughter. I feel very honored that you are teaching my teenager. You have so much to offer, thank you, and we will pray that you will find peace and the pain will recede for you.

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  32. I wonder how many of your "non-struggling" students have bigger problems and aren't willing to share? I'm not saying that there aren't people out there without problems or trials, but like last night when my dad called to see if I was ok about something, I blatantly lied and said I was alright because I don't want to talk about what was going on. In the big picture it doesn't matter.

    I think we all experience trials and struggles differently but I think in the end it all evens out. I think of the seemingly small struggles what opened my eyes, that had smaller impacts but I learned to deal with than the big whammy eye opener or struggles that hit friends. They felt bad for my struggles, but in the end I'm left better able to deal. They have no idea how to face conflict and now I feel for them.

    I don't imagine in the few months since this post was written you've found peace in your pain, but I'm thinking of you and hoping that days are easier.

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