Personal Response by Jack Rushton
I believe this is a very profound question that has undoubtedly been asked by millions of people from the beginning of time. Life can seem unfair at times as we experience our own personal suffering, and witness through our own eyes or through the media, the incredible suffering that seems to be such an integral part of the daily lives of people all over the world.
I had to come to grips with this question on a personal level when 19 years ago I broke my neck, severed my spinal cord, and became paralyzed from the neck down and ventilator dependent.Approximately 6 years ago I had an experience with my son-in-law that I believe will shed some light on this fundamental question about life.
One morning I received a phone call from my son-in-law, Matt. He was enrolled in the MBA program at UC Irvine which is about 20 minutes from our home. The Dean of the MBA program had just announced to all the students that were there that day that one of their classmates by the name of Michael Johnson, had drowned in a swimming accident in Northern California the day before. Michael was one of the brightest students and leaders in the MBA class. He was very charismatic and his future as a leader in the business world appeared to be limitless. His fellow classmates, including my son-in-law, were just stunned when they received the news regarding Michael. After conferring with the Dean and several classmates Matt volunteered me to come to UC Irvine to speak to the 50 or 60 students who were there that day for just a few minutes.
Matt came home, loaded me into my modified van, and drove me up to the campus. As we went into the room where the students were gathered together you could just feel the spirit of sorrow, and I could sense that many were asking themselves, “Why did something like this happen to such a good, wonderful, person like Michael Johnson? Couldn’t God have prevented it from happening?”
As I looked at these students it was impressed upon me very strongly to share with them the conversation I had with Dennis Praeger almost 15 years ago when I appeared on his talk radio show in Los Angeles. Toward the end of the hour he said “Jack, what brings you the most peace and comfort — to believe that God brought the wave that broke your neck or to believe that it was just an accident?” I, in essence, told him that I had spent very little time asking myself why the accident took place. The only thing I knew for sure was that there was a loving and kind God that would help us get through anything life would bring our way if we had sufficient faith and trust in Him.
I told the students that afternoon that each one of us has our agency and that we are not puppets of deity. We live our lives exercising our agency as we choose to do so, but there is also at play natural law. Oftentimes in exercising our agency we hit natural law head on and then experience the consequences for our actions. When I went body surfing at Laguna Beach that beautiful August day, it was something I chose to do. I firmly believe that a loving God could have protected me but he doesn’t interfere with our agency and natural law. In my own mind the “Why” question is absolutely the worst question we can ever ask ourselves when something like this happens. God could prevent every disaster or catastrophe from happening, but he doesn’t, because of his love for us and his understanding of the importance of agency.
And so things happen in life like swimming accidents, cancer, tsunamis, earthquakes, murder, abuse, and etc. — the list is endless. God doesn’t cause these things to happen and he could certainly prevent them, but in doing so we would lose the priceless gift of agency.
Mortality brings to us a variety of experiences — some wonderful and some not so wonderful. However, through all of the experiences we have we gain knowledge, and a wise and loving God, the Father of us all, will never rob us of the priceless gift of agency. The students seemed to respond to this line of reasoning.
Life is so very precious and yet it can be taken in an instant. I am very impressed that in most countries in the world there is such a desire to preserve life. You see it every day reported in newspapers and on TV where hundreds and thousands will seek to recover a lost or kidnapped child for example. If someone is injured in a car accident or stranded on a cliff and etc. many caring people are willing to risk their lives to save the life of another. Medical science can do so much to preserve and improve the quality of human life. I believe this is pleasing to God and hopefully through an extended life we can fulfill the measure of our creation and be prepared to take the next step forward in our eternal progression.
There is no price we can put on mortal life. What a gift a loving and kind Heavenly Father has given to each one of us. Each day is precious and priceless!
We also do not see what happens after people pass through this portal of life. It is not an end but a continuation of life and service. We don’t know how one’s ministering from the other side of the veil, or beyond this life, will impact their earthly friends and families as well as those they meet in their spiritual resting place. A benevolent and perfect God has factored all of that in, and has seen to every need of every individual. He hasn’t let something slip by him, or work to a unused end. There is no waste and no incidental event that won’t turn to someone’s glory. Our not seeing those results should not cause us to waiver in knowing that God is in control, and that death and suffering are not in vain, but will work towards God’s perfect loving design for each of us–while granting us our agency on the way.