Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Virtual Tour: Faith in Times of Crisis, or Crisis of Faith?

This is the guest post I wrote for The Book Connection, as part of the virtual tour I'm now on for my memoir:

I am a religiously observant Jew, and have been for thirty-five years. Ten years ago, my faith was challenged in the starkest way possible, when my eighteen-year-old daughter Timora died after a six-year struggle with cancer. Her illness and death brought me up against perhaps the most perplexing of all questions facing all people of faith: How could the loving God in whom I believe have allowed all this to happen? And, conversely, how can I continue to love God even after all that has happened? Indeed, how can a loving God preside over a world in which people – including millions of children – have suffered and died unjustly since the beginning of human time, and how can any thinking person remain faithful to such a Being?

I address this issue (among many others) in a memoir of my journey with my daughter during her illness, then without her after she left this world, entitled And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones. I respond – tentatively and humbly, as one must necessarily answer such questions – with my own concept of a personal God.

Children, and many adults, believe in a simple, one-to-one relationship with God. It’s a kind of bargain: If we lead a good life, evil will not befall us. But I consider my connection with the Divine somewhat differently. I see God as having created the world, set it in motion, and given us the principles by which we may live our lives as spiritual and moral beings. I do not see Him, however, as continuing to directly cause everything that takes place in our present world. Rather, I understand His presence in this era as providing us with a well of strength to draw upon when life presents us with its inevitable trials and tragedies. Perhaps even more importantly, He continually grants us the capacity to love and draw comfort from one other. These gifts empower us to survive our losses, and to build new lives for ourselves when our old ones seem to have fallen apart.

As I write in my memoir: “Loving God keeps me from bitterness, cynicism and despair, by opening me to the healing energy that keeps me from paralysis and gives me the strength to go on. Especially, to go on performing acts of loving kindness, and raising my children to do the same, even after our devastating loss. For by engaging in acts of kindness, by forging loving relationships with those around me, I become – so I believe – a vessel for giving, and for receiving, God’s own love….

God has been an enormous source of the strength and resilience that has enabled me to face the suffering I’ve both experienced and seen others experience in this world. And my faith enables me to feel grateful for my life despite that suffering, and to look toward the future with hope.”

Bereavement – even the loss of a child – need not cause a crisis in faith, if we decide to go on living and loving as we were created to do, and trust our Creator to bestow upon us the spiritual gifts that allow us to do so.

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