Recently a client looked at me crying and said,“Why? Why did this happen to me?”
Her question was rhetorical, but it was also a pleading for an answer. She looked at me, the mental health professional, to glean some insight into why this tragedy had befallen her.
First I gave a spiritually pat answer: “We choose our path here, even though on a human level we don’t understand why.” It was an incomplete and maybe even wrong answer, and I knew after I said it that it was not comforting to her.
She looked at me, thankfully with an understanding of where I was coming from, and said,“I chose this?” She pointed to her now-disabled body, the result of a devastating accident of which she wasn’t the cause.
I had another chance, and I offered the better answer: “I don’t know.”
I don’t know why some people live after fighting cancer, while others die. Why some people are abused, and others are protected. Why some people’s lives are easier than others’. I don’t know why some people who desperately want to have children cannot get pregnant, while others have an easy time; why some people are disabled or killed after an accident, and others walk away unscathed. I don’t know why some children are hungry, sad and lonely; why some elderly people are hungry, sad and lonely.
I wish I had the answer for her but I didn’t. I don’t.
If I was going to guess, I would say that if everything were without risk we wouldn’t need to be here. If everything were a matter of obvious karma then there would be no mystery. If everything went along as it was supposed to, there would fewer lessons.
I know for myself that prayer has helped me tremendously and (it would seem) has provided untold protection. The few times that I have prayed and it hasn’t worked out I have had to trust that there is a lesson beyond my human scope of understanding and hope that maybe my spirit will glean some wisdom. Maybe it can grow from the experience and evolve into a better one. Maybe on a soul level once I pray, I need to trust and detach from any outcome.
“Thy Will Be Done.” I trust that spirit knows what it’s doing and have faith that my life is moving in the direction it must to support my spiritual development.
I believe that ultimately this is what we are here to do: To become better beings. This opportunity to be here on earth has so much potential to benefit us, but the risks are daunting if we dwell on them. A landmine of risks.
Trust, faith and presence are our tools in the face of tragedy—an understanding that there are no human answers to explain the mystery of being here and the way of our path and the path of others isn’t always clear.
I speak these words, “I don’t know,” with humility, reverence, frustration and sadness—and sometimes even with awe.
Author: Kris Hanvey
Image: Gareth Williams/Flickr
Editors: Toby Israel; Renée Picard