What can we learn about suffering from pets? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I’m taking a break from the series now to write about what is going on with me today. As I write this, it is around 8:35 and I am sitting at a Starbucks with my tea right next to me (None of those pagan coffee drinks) when I would more normally be waking up and have my little cat Shiro nuzzling me waiting for his food machine to go off so he can get breakfast.
This morning, I got up at 6:30 instead, and called to Shiro when I didn’t see him. He came out from under the bed and I indicated to him I wanted him to jump up, which he eagerly did. A moment later, he regretted it. I held him and headed towards the door and then he knew what was coming. I had his kitty carrier in the bathtub in our big bathroom and had it already open as I put him in.
It’s a real chore honestly. It takes a lot of planning.
No. There’s nothing wrong with him as far as I know. He just has to have his regular shots, a dental cleaning, and I’m getting his nails trimmed while he’s under. Unfortunately, little Shiro understands none of this. For him, he’s gone without his breakfast and would much rather be at home and doesn’t understand why the only person in this world he now trusts is treating him this way.
You see, since the divorce, I have been with my parents and sometimes Shiro tolerates them, but he doesn’t trust them yet. I’m the only person he regularly comes close to and the only one who gets to hold him. He especially likes it if I lay down on the bed and he gets to be on top of me. He can sit like that for several minutes. He’ll often rub his face in mine, something I refer to as a kitty kiss.
This morning, I suspect he feels betrayed. If I loved him, I wouldn’t do this. Right? I would hear him crying on the way to the vet. I could picture him asking why I would do this if I loved him so much.
It’s interesting that we ask the why question.
In my Bible reading of the Old Testament, I am going through Job now. I contend that Job is not really about why bad things happen to good people. It’s asking why we are good in the first place. However, Job seems to want to know why what is happening to him is happening to him. Naturally, his friends think they have the answer which means of course, they were first-year seminary students.
It’s odd that Job argues against them while at the same time assuming to accept what they say. He wants his day in court. He wants to show he’s innocent. After all, the only reason he could be suffering is that he is being judged. Right?
Somehow, we often think a why answer would help us every time. Who is to say it would? Who are we to say we would even understand the answer.
As I type this, I think about my friend Ed. I spoke with him in person just last month at ETS and he has a hard life indeed as he has an unknown disease and a number of times has been at the hospital assured his time has come, but he is still here. Ed is a great servant of Jesus and in my own suffering in divorce has reached out to me a number of times.
And just after our meeting his 17 year-old daughter died suddenly.
I can’t imagine what that would be like. I’m not going to try. Even more unbelievable is he has contacted me through text message in this time saying he is sorry he hasn’t reached out to me. I tell him to please not worry about that and I mean it. I need to be there for him this time, and I do sometimes send him Bible verses about the resurrection.
Now I don’t doubt that God could show up and explain why this has happened. He could, but while Ed is a smart man, would he understand it? Would any of us? We’re talking about a being who knows the end from the beginning and can tell you everything that has happened in the story thus far and everything that will happen.
Also, is a good God obligated to prevent every kind of suffering we have here? I’m reading a book now called When Helping Hurts. It’s about how we can say we want to help the poor, but what we do really hurts them instead. Consider it like the little boy who wants to help the butterfly get out of the casing he’s in, so he breaks it. He thinks he’s helping. He’s just killed the butterfly. It’s in breaking out that it develops the strength it needs to be a butterfly. Without that, it dies.
One of the writers talks about being in a sort of slums area that he thinks is God-forsaken when he finds a church. He is invited to preach and being a good Presbyterian decides he will speak some on the sovereignty of God. He thinks that until he hears the prayer requests, such as a woman wanting protection since her husband beats her or for God to provide food for the children of someone in the congregation who are hungry.
This pastor knows about the sovereignty of God from his study of the text. These people know about having to depend on it for their very lives. One guess who really got the lesson on the sovereignty of God that day. Amazingly, those people, who are suffering far more than most of us in the western world are, have more trust in God and rejoice more in His goodness. Prideful skeptics here might call it delusional hope. Perhaps they should try to talk to those people some first and just really listen.
It’s part of our entitlement mentality. We all think we’re entitled to a life without suffering and God is there to aid in our joy and to keep us from evil and if He’s not doing that, well He’s not doing His job. Yes. God has His job and He is obviously our employee and if He doesn’t do the work, He’s not worth it.
It’s really an arrogant position.
It’s also not as if God does this for His enjoyment. Sure, I’m sipping a tea here in Starbucks and typing a blog and watching the people come in here, but if you asked if I would have rather been staying at home and doing all this work from there and then playing some Final Fantasy XIV with friends, it’s definitely the latter. I’m not a morning person. I’m a night owl. I’ve been going to bed earlier this week to prepare. (Fortunately, God in His grace let me have my Dad’s bronchitis so I didn’t have to work. Yes. Another interesting way suffering works for our good.)
I would like to be able to explain to Shiro that I love him despite what he sees. You who are reading this, regardless of your attitude towards cats, know that what I have done for Shiro is ultimately a loving thing and if I didn’t do it, you would have grounds to question my love for Shiro. It’s odd, but if I withheld this suffering from him, I would not be loving.
Part of my problem with arguments from evil is people who make them presume too much. They presume there is no good reason for this, that they have to understand the reason, and that God owes them to not have this evil suffering. It’s important to note that the problem of evil is the burden of the skeptic. They have to demonstrate there is no good reason for a particular suffering. Good luck with that. I don’t have to know why a particular suffering has happened and frankly, why should I know that? I consider myself a smart man, but I don’t think I would understand it either.
After all, I don’t understand yet why God allowed me to meet a girl who would ten years later shatter my heart in a divorce that was unjustified and call me abusive. I still don’t understand it, but I have held on to Him in the midst of it and that has been my hope. Friends assure me that sometime down the road, I will see this as a blessing, and in some ways, I do see good coming from it now, but I still wait for more. I especially hope to someday soon meet another girl who I can bring joy to.
And as I think about that, it brings me to something else about suffering and knowing why it happens. Most of us hate it if we’re watching a movie and someone spoils what happens in it for us. Strangely, we think we should have spoilers for our own life given to us. This is a story that we are in, but it is His story and we are just minor bit roles in it, though there is still something great planned even for us.
In a few hours, I will be picking up Shiro. Before too long, he will be snuggling with me again. Maybe not tonight as my Dad and I are going to see Christmas lights, but eventually, he will give me his trust again and be happy.
Will I give the one who watches over me the same and be happy just being with Him?
That’s up to me.
And for you, that’s your choice as well.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)