By Rev. Mike Knudson, pastor of Bethlehem and Eidsvold Lutheran churches
Lisa called last week. She didn't want to trouble me, but she was headed into surgery to remove a tumor and remembered I had had the same type - the kind that had also taken the life of her mother. It ended up being a 53-minute conversation. At one point she said, "I guess everything happens for a reason." She had been thinking about her relationship with God and wondered what she had done to deserve cancer. I paused, and told her I didn't think God sent my cancer for a reason. And then I told her about Rosie.
Our granddaughter Rosie was named after "Rosie the Riveter" of WWII fame, the postergirl flexing her bicep, hair tied up with a blue handkerchief; the image of a strong capable woman. Our Rosie was well named! She was alive to the world, loved to be held, and cute, cute, cute. No brag, just fact. But she hated naps. One restless naptime she tried to get out of her onesie, became stuck, and strangled. Her death was devastating to us. May 27 will always hurt. In the three years since, there have been no answers to the "Why?" question.
Thankfully no one has told me "God needed another angel in heaven." No, I do not believe Rosie died "for a reason."
I suppose saying "Everything happens for a reason" is comforting to begin with. The saying points to a God who is in control, strong, and who brings victory out of chaos and devastation. I believe this! The problem comes when the mind takes the logical step and asks, "Then did God send the chaos and devastation?" There are events in the Bible story that seem to say so, but the definitive Word, the ultimate Word, the One who shoulders the pain of the world, who is the image of God on earth, Jesus, did not send devastation and chaos, he loved the world and offered new life to everyone brought low.
The Gospel of Mark describes how Jesus, as he died, asked the Father, "Why have you deserted me?" Jesus, the man, our brother, bore the question "why" just as we do and he entered death as we do. Compassion incarnate. And then he returned and said repeatedly, "Peace be with you" when he could have scowled at his friends who deserted him.
And so we trust Jesus is with us, like them, in this wild and dangerous and wonderful world and cling to the Word recorded in Romans 8, "in everything God works for good." It doesn't say God sent "everything" but does say "works for good" in everything.
I don't believe God took Rosie but I know she is with God. Knowing that, all is well and all will be well.