Sometimes life seems random and pointless. Is there a reason for the good and the bad?

Photo: Jupiterimages

Ava swished the last of the breakfast dishes in soapy water. George had cooked, so Ava cleaned up. Ava loved a good breakfast, and George’s hit a homerun in her book.

Out of the corner of her eye, Ava saw her daughter Jenna leaning against the door jamb. Ava turned. “Jenna, you’re not dressed yet, honey. It’s almost time to go.”

“Do I have to go?” Jenna said, a rebellious look cementing onto her face. “I hate funerals. It’s just a bunch of stupid people sitting around crying and telling everyone how sorry they are about the dead person being gone.”

“Well, that’s one way to look at it,” Ava responded.

“That’s the only way to look at it.” Jenna stomped her foot for emphasis. “It’s pointless.”

Ava put down the pan she held, turning her full attention to Jenna. “What do you think is pointless, Jenna?”

“I don’t know. Funerals. Death. Life! All of it. Why do any of this stuff? I mean, what’s the point?” Jenna’s voice trembled even as she shouted.

“Oh Jenna, honey, life is not pointless. It’s a great adventure,” Ava said without thinking.

“Tell that to Andrew at the funeral home. He was only 13. Some adventure he got,” Jenna mumbled, lower lip quivering.

Ava paused to gather her thoughts. “I’m sorry. That was insensitive and trite, wasn’t it? And it doesn’t answer your question at all. It’s easy to spout platitudes at a time like this; not so easy to understand why bad things happen in the world and how to cope in the midst of all the difficulties.”

“Duh! I think that’s what I just said, Mom. Pointless.” Jenna crossed her arms, a scowl scrunching her face.

Ava knew she needed to tread lightly given her daughter’s hurt and confusion. “You’re right, sometimes life does seem random and pointless, but truly, I believe there is a reason for all of this, the good and the bad.”

“Oh, here we go. Give me your wisdom, Yoda. Lay it on me, oh wise one,” Jenna wise-cracked.

“No need to be sarcastic.” Ava said patiently. “Would you like my perspective or not?”

“Okay, sorry,” Jenna muttered. “But really, what is the point to this life? How do I go on from something like this? Andrew was my friend, Mom. And he’s gone, forever. Now I just don’t see the point of working hard at school, trying to get a job, having a family, none of it if it’s all just a big roll of the dice. ‘Hey, you. You got the lucky 7. Here’s your prize: death at 13.’”

Ava took a breath. This was heavy for 10:00 in the morning.

God doesn’t promise us an easy life. God doesn’t even promise us a good life. But the Bible does say that God loves us and won’t leave us or forsake us and God will work all things together for good.

“Okay, first of all, you need to decide if there is a God, and if there is, is God good? Personally, I do believe there is a God, and that God truly wants what is best for all people. If you can get to this place, then there is a Bible verse that helps me with this confusing concept of the meaning of life. It says, ‘All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes.’”

Jenna looked confused. “Sorry, Mom. Not too helpful right now. What the heck does that even mean? How can ’all things’ be good? That’s obviously so not true.”

Ava sighed. “The verse doesn’t say all things are good, Jenna. It says that they can work together for good. That’s completely different. God doesn’t promise us an easy life. God doesn’t even promise us a good life. But the Bible does say that God loves us and won’t leave us or forsake us and God will work all things together for good.”

The stubborn look returned to Jenna’s face. “That’s easy for you to say. Andrew wasn’t your friend.”

“No, he wasn’t my friend, but I understand what you’re going through.” Ava hung up her towel and sat at the table.

Jenna rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right.”

“Sarcasm again?” Ava reigned in her frustration. “Okay. I want to tell you something so you’ll understand that I really do know how you’re feeling. When I was 13, my brother Richard was killed in a car crash.”

“Wait. What? I had an Uncle Richard?” Jenna interjected. Sitting down, she gave her mother her full attention.

“Well, technically, yes. He was gone long before you were born, before I even met your father.”

“What was he like, Uncle Richard?” Jenna asked.

“Well, he was tall, handsome, young, smart and talented. Oh man how he could play the piano.” Ava closed her eyes, remembering. “He would hear a song he liked on the radio and then pick it out on the piano. He could play the whole thing by ear after a couple of tries. It was amazing! And we had the same sense of humor. I loved to listen in on his piano lessons. He would frustrate the life out of his piano teacher. Mr. Krush was a classical piano teacher. When Richard was feeling particularly puckish, he would burst into one of his Mozart Madness or Beethoven Bombastic improvisations. Mr. Krush would go bonkers, shouting, ‘Stop that unholy racket.’” Ava smiled, lost in the memory.

“And then what happened?” Jenna hesitated, not sure she wanted to hear this next part.

“Richard was 21 and getting ready to go back to college and finish his degree. He was ready to go out and make something of his life. And then, BOOM. His car got hit by a train and he was gone.” Ava snapped her fingers. “Just like that. I was devastated. I couldn’t understand. He wasn’t a bad guy. Why was he gone?”

Jenna lifter her eyes to meet her mother’s. “What did you find out?”

Ava sighed. “Nothing. I felt just like you do now. I had no answer.”

“Mom,” Jenna wailed. “This is SO not helping.”

“You didn’t let me finish, Jenna.” Ava took a deep breath. “Later I learned something very important.”

“What did you learn, Mom?” Jenna asked, fighting an eye roll.

Ava paused. “Well, I found out that ‘Why?’ is the wrong question.”

“The wrong question?”

“The wrong question.”

A smile played at Jenna’s lips. “Mom, you’re killing me. Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the right question?”

“The right question, is ‘How?’” Ava reached for Jenna’s hand. “I’ve found that most of the time we don’t get any answer to the ‘Why?’ question. And if we insist on asking why, we usually end up angry and bitter about our situation. But if we ask ‘How,’ things can begin to make some sense. Instead of why, I now ask ‘How?’ How can God use this yucky stuff for good in my life? How can I learn and grow as a person from this devastating situation? How can I use this hard thing that I am going through or have gone through to help others who also find themselves in this situation?”

“And that helps?” Jenna questioned.

“Yes, it helps. Then I know that what I am going through, whatever I am going through, the good and the bad, isn’t pointless. It is being used by God for good for me and for those I interact with and it isn’t wasted.”

Jenna sat back and pondered her mother’s words. “I don’t really get all of this, but you’re right, it makes some sense. I’ll think about it while I’m getting ready, okay? Thanks for talking, Mom.”

“Any time, honey.” Ava wrapped her arms around her daughter. “And Jenna, thanks for listening.”


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