A Decent God
On Point with Chris Papst
A man once told me God didn't exist because no decent God would allow a child to suffer and die from cancer. My response to him was simple. I said, “Well, if something bad is proof there isn't a God, then why can't something positive be proof there is a God?” He replied, “I've watched a child slowly die. Nothing positive can balance that out.”
As a young man trying to understand this life and find his way, that was a conversation that stuck with me. It took place about eight years ago. I was in my early twenties. And I often think back on that exchange and wonder who was right. Normally my recollection is triggered by a book, television show, movie or possibly a story I was assigned. But this past week I was forced to relive that conversation by coming as close to experiencing that man's hopelessness as I ever care to be.
Earlier this month, the Susquehanna Valley flooded when the river rose to its fifth highest level on record. Thousands fled their homes and businesses. Many lost everything. I spent two straight days covering the disaster. While standing next to a rushing creek that had already washed away a house and nearly a bridge, I received a call from my wife saying her cousin had died. A few weeks prior, she suffered a massive stroke. A few months prior to that she was diagnosed with lymphoma. Her name was Kendyl. She was 14-years-old.
Despite the panic that surrounded me, my heart sank as my chaotic environment mattered far less. After all, the house and bridge are replaceable. My wife's voice when she told me was hallow and helpless. I didn't know how to respond. Neither did she. We just held the phones to our ears in silence.
It's been said there is nothing more unnatural than a parent outliving their child. In this case, a great-grandparent outlived her great-grandchild. There is no word to describe the injustice. There are no words to describe how I felt when I heard the news.
I had only met Kendyl once when our lives crossed paths at a wedding in Wisconsin. I was working for the local NBC affiliate and she was a flower girl in the ceremony. Our encounter was brief. But it was obvious this adorable, sweet and energetic girl was full of life and potential. It was also obvious this life was full of people who loved her. My dispirited heart goes out to them all.
Ever since my wife's phone call, that conversation from eight years ago has consumed my thoughts. I do believe there is a God. But in light of such a preventable tragedy, I can't help but contemplate that man's atheistic logic. Why would God do this? Why Kendyl? Why any child? I wonder, do even the most devout believers among us ponder that reality?
It seems too easy to justify this by simply stating it's “God's plan”. In defense of His existence, I want to say that is true. But it's hard. However, I fully understand the scope of His purpose is far beyond the ability He gave me to comprehend.
I cannot begin to understand what Kendyl's family is going through. The pain of their loss must be immense; and at times, seemingly insurmountable. Now, when faith is most important, how can the fundamental foundations of that faith not – at some point - come into question? I hope her family is able to unite and find peace.
As a reporter, I am driven by facts. And these facts allow me to articulate the reason behind all of my opinions and positions. Before I take a stand on any issue, I must first have the ability to clearly explain myself. This is the only instance where I abandoned that principle.
Chris Papst is a two-time Emmy Award winning reporter for CBS-21 news.