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Suffering is not a pleasant topic. So why am I blogging about it?
The short answer is that my pastor asked me to help him with an upcoming sermon series on suffering. In preparation for that, I’m going to be exploring my thoughts on the subject here on my blog. So for the next few months, I’ll try to post somewhat regularly on suffering and how we as Christians should understand and relate to it. I don’t expect that there will be any logical progression to these posts. Rather, they’ll mostly be reflections and musings.
I lay no claim to superior wisdom or understanding. In fact, the longer I live, the more I realize how little I know, especially about this subject. Yet, for some reason that I don’t fully understand, much of my writing over the years has dealt with suffering and pain.
I became a writer because of my own loss. My daughter, Michelle, died when she was only one week old. It remains one of the most difficult times in my life. Yet it also was, I believe, a watershed moment. As my wife and I passed through our grief and pain, I told myself that someday I would write a book about our experience. I never wrote that book, but our loss set me on the path to becoming a writer.
My novel Unseen (originally titled Blind Sight) focused on a pastor who had lost his wife and family in an automobile accident that he caused. In that novel, my character struggled deeply with God’s goodness in the midst of his pain. He asked the question that comes up so often. “How could a good God allow this to happen?” It’s a question I’ve asked a lot, too.
A few years later, I wrote Mercy Killer (originally titled The Angel) looked at life, death, and suffering through the eyes of a police detective stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). In that novel I explored the question of when or if it is acceptable to end one’s own life. As recent events in the news have shown, there are rarely easy or pat answers to such questions.
A few years later, my path crossed that of Terry Caffey, a man who lost his wife and two sons to murder and then learned that his sixteen-year-old daughter (my daughter’s good friend) was involved in the murder plot. Through a set of circumstances that are at least amazing and at most miraculous, I ended up helping Terry write a book about his loss and about how God helped him to forgive his daughter and the other three people who were involved in killing his family. That book, Terror by Night, was my second “watershed” moment. In the years since then, my writing projects have mostly been with and about people who have gone through serious tragedies and crises. I’m sure I’ll discuss some of those in the coming weeks.
If I’ve learned anything from life, it is that suffering is inevitable and inescapable. Everybody suffers to one degree or another. Everyone experiences tragedy. The only variables are how often, how long, and how severe. And yet, at least in my experience, there is reason for hope. God is touched by our grief and longs to heal us.
As I said, I have far more questions than I do answers. But I hope you’ll go on this journey with me and hold my hand as we walk dark paths together in search of God’s light.