I hadn’t thought of it in a long time, the very helpful, powerful and poignant book by Rabbi Harold Kushner, “When Bad Things Happen To Good People.” I came across it today in my reading.
The book was written in response to the Kushner family’s son who died of progeria—a disease advancing age, so at the early age of 14 [this is from memory] he had the body of a very, very old man.
I’ve had two responses to this great book over the years—one, his philosophy on how to cope with the untoward, the negative, the evil: live in faith that God is not the cause of the evil, that God isn’t “after you” because you might not have been as good as you wish.
The other response, that is not often considered, is this: the book title has an implication, certainly not one Kushner intends, nonetheless is implied—namely if you are good then nothing bad should happen to you.
In the journey of ministry I’ve known people who believe that. They believe a primary purpose of being good, a primary consequence of being faithful will be a relatively unblemished life.
Time and again I argue against that: the purpose of being good is life is more meaningful to me with that attitude and expression. I am not faithful in order to be protected, in order for the unseemly to not intrude. No, time and time again, no. Fidelity is not for protection; fidelity is for endurance.
I had an experience tonight of that in my mentor, Fred Trost. Truth is I know of no one in ministry who better reflects the pastoral and prophetic. He means the world to me. And yet in our conversation tonight, December 30, as I wished him the best on his 75th birthday, is what he and his family [18 of them gathered this week in Wisconsin] have experienced: they worshipped together on Christmas Eve lighting candles, his brother Robert died of cancer and Fred led his dearest brother’s Memorial Service, the family—each of them—contracted the flu, they celebrated the wedding of Paul, Fred and Louise’s son, they took a sleigh ride this afternoon and today is Fred’s special day.
Goodness, all in one week. It happened. Stuff happens. Good times happen. And in it all, my wonderful brother in ministry, Frederick Richard Trost, was a gentle, loving man who knows that in it all God was present with each of them as an abiding and caring and strengthening Presence.
As I’ve said but want to repeat it now…we don’t know what the future holds but we know Who holds the future. In a little more than 24 hours the new year will dawn. And then on January 6 it will be Epiphany, the moment the wise men beheld the Christ Child. A moment of awareness. May that be our world in the new year, no matter where or how we are, no matter what happens, may we be aware we are never alone, that God’s promise to be with us no matter what is always kept.
Faith—for endurance. Goodness—to fulfill life. Tomorrow—bring it on!