I want you to meet someone. This is Jessica Whelan.
Jessica is a four-year-old from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, who was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma in September of 2015. After fighting for over a year, Jessica died a couple of days ago.
It is a heart-breaking story, one that unfortunately occurs far, far too often. What makes this particular story important though, is that Jessica’s father Andy documented much of the final year of her life through photos, both the good and the bad. One photo in particular hit me like a punch in the gut.
I want you to look at that picture for a moment. Several moments. Let it sink in, try in some way to comprehend the pain this sweet little girl went through, the agony of undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, probably not even fully understanding why she was being forced to endure it. Imagine that you are one of her loved ones, watching her, knowing that you are in some way responsible for making her bear these treatments in the vain hope that they’ll somehow help her get better, or at the very least, prolong her life enough to give you just a little more time with her.
Imagine you could stop it. Imagine you had the power to snap your fingers and remove her cancer, end her pain, and make her a happy, healthy little girl once again. You would, wouldn’t you? Look at her picture again. What wouldn’t you do to take that pain away from her?
Look at her picture again. Make yourself do it.
Now tell me that your God exists.
You can hand-wave it away if you like. You can give the fancy apologist answer of original sin and free will. You can take the position of ignorance and say that God’s ways are a mystery but that we shouldn’t question him. You may even allow yourself to feel angry at God for allowing such suffering, yet you still cling to your faith in spite of your anger.
At some point though, you’re going to have to be honest with yourself. There are two possibilities here. One possibility is that God doesn’t actually exist, that Jessica died because cancer is heartless and can strike any of us at random, even innocent four-year-olds, and that there is no rhyme or reason to it at all. The other possibility is that your God does exist, that he has the power to end her suffering and heal her – because after all, he can do anything, right? – yet he watches her pain with indifference and inaction. He does nothing.
Is that really the God you want to love and serve? Is that the God you want to dedicate your life to? I don’t believe you really do. When you look at little Jessica’s picture, you know that for your God to have the ability to help her and to choose not to, for any reason at all, is nothing short of malicious.
You cannot look at that picture without knowing in your heart that your God is an absolute monster.
What an awful reality that would be. Thankfully, it is all an illusion, a great lie. God is not a monster, because he does not exist. Of course, that doesn’t make Jessica’s suffering any less awful. What she and her loved ones went through is a tragedy. But I’m glad I live in a world where tragedy strikes at random rather than one in which an omnipotent being looks on with apathy, doing nothing to help. At least we as a society are doing everything in our power to fight cancer and other diseases so that stories like Jessica’s may eventually become much less common. We’re trying, and even if bad things happen, we are not content to simply sit back and watch.
As bad as it is, isn’t our actual reality the better one?
You don’t have to live with this deception that has been foisted on your for your entire life. It’s okay to admit that none of it makes sense. There is a better life awaiting you if you’ll only take the first step and admit that you might be wrong. If you’re ready to take that first step, shoot me a comment or an email and let’s talk.
I won’t try to change your mind, because it’s impossible for me to do so. Only you can do that. But I promise, I’ll help show you where to start.