A few posts ago I mentioned my friend who had a tumor removed. The doctors believe they got all of it, and said that the lymph nodes were clean. At the end of the email that was sent out with this update, the person writing it said “Praise His Name for answering prayers.” I’m sure back when I was normal that would have been my first reaction as well. But I’m not “normal” by any means at this point, and any relief or rejoicing I feel is tinged with confusion and jealousy.

In this new reality I live in, I wonder “Why wasn’t Eliana healed?” Don’t get me wrong. Of course I am happy and thankful that my friend’s prognosis is good. But if God is truly in the business of dabbling in our physical world, then why does He heal some, and let others suffer and die? I don’t understand it. I will never understand it. And I suppose the truth is that we are not meant to understand it. People have been brooding over the question of human suffering since the beginning of time, and I doubt that me blogging about it is going to reveal any brilliant insights. Nevertheless, writing is my outlet, so I’ll go ahead and share my thoughts, even if none of us end up with any better answers to the questions as a result.

I am a very….detail-oriented person. I’ll skip the description I usually give, to keep this family-friendly and let you avoid a possible conversation with your child about Freud and his interesting theories. =) Anyway, when naming my children, I go through all sorts of mental gymnastics because I want the name to be perfect. What are the origins, the meanings, the possible nicknames? What does it rhyme with? How does it sound with the other kid’s names? Are the styles and lengths similar? How does it sound with our last name, with possible middle names? Um, yeah, I’m an….I mean detail-oriented. With the first two kid’s names, it was easy, and they fit all my criteria just fine.

Then I got pregnant with our third. I had a hard time finding the perfect name. Nothing seemed just right. I had a list of possibles, and my husband and I went over them repeatedly. I ended up favoring Eliana because of it’s meaning. It didn’t really “fit” with the other girls names, but I felt like I had to have that name. The meaning is “God answered” or “God has answered.” I didn’t know why I had to have that meaning, or what He was going to end up answering. And then for the middle name, we chose to name her after my grandpa’s middle name. He died many years ago.

The other strange thing was that I needed to pray for this baby’s health. I admit I was pretty careless about praying for the other two. I just took it for granted that they were fine. But with this one I had to pray. And I did, daily, for her physical and mental health, and her birth. Nevertheless, I had the feeling through most of my pregnancy that she was going to die. Then I didn’t miscarry, and she wasn’t stillborn, and she didn’t die at birth, so I though I must have been just paranoid.

A month later she gets sick, and then dies. And I am sitting here wondering what in the world this all means. “God answered.”  What am I supposed to do with that? I realize that perhaps early on in grief is not an objective point-of-view to be trying to answer this question, but I have to ask it anyway. Letting my child die was His answer? What awful question was it that I don’t even remember asking, that He decided to answer by taking my baby? Or I could get really superstitious and think that it was bad luck to name her after a dead relative. Maybe I should stick to living family member’s names. Or was it that I jinxed her by saying the words out loud. I should have kept my mouth shut and everything would have been fine. And if God was the one who “told” me that there was something wrong, why not just fix whatever was wrong? I didn’t want a warning. I wanted my baby!

Well, to get back to what this post started out with, I certainly don’t mean to imply that we should not praise God for my friend getting better. Regardless of whether God healed her or she just got lucky, having a thankful attitude about the good things in life is something to strive for. But those are still very hard words for bereaved parents to hear. “Praise His Name for answering prayer.” Why didn’t He answer my prayer? Why does He let die the loved children of good parents, and let live and suffer the unwanted babies of abusers who would never even think to pray for their children in the first place? If babies have to be miscarried or stillborn, why not those who will know only suffering at the hands of their own parents? If He’s merciful, why not let those children escape their awful fate? I just don’t understand.

I know I’ve created here one big, giant ramble with no good conclusion. I wish I had answers. I wish things were different. I think to close I’ll share a quote that a friend sent to me one morning. It seems appropriate here. It was found written on a wall in one of the concentration camps.

“I believe in the sun even if it isn’t shining.

I believe in love even when I am alone.

I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Then my friend wrote, “I just thought that if someone in such circumstances had this positive outlook about God we shouldn’t give up.”  And she is right. Rather than give up on God, I choose to admit that some of the pat answers I’ve always believed don’t make sense anymore. God doesn’t make sense anymore. But He’s God. He doesn’t have to. He’d be a pretty lame God if us pitiful little humans could understand everything about Him. If He were that easy to understand, perhaps He wouldn’t be a God worth serving.

Maybe if we here on Earth spent more time trying to do the right thing, than in trying to come up with the right answers, there would be less of this confusing human suffering for us to ponder. Instead of asking why people are suffering, maybe we should ask ourselves what we can do to help them. Maybe the answer to prayer is found in other people’s compassion, and by doing nothing, we are the ones that cause some prayers to seemingly go unanswered. Death is something we’ll always have to deal with. But there is a lot of unnecessary pain in this world that we all have the power to put a stop to. Pick a cause, and go answer someone’s prayer.