“. . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3-5
Rabbi Harold Kushner in his marvelous book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, tells the story about a couple who, in grieving the tragic loss of their teenage daughter, confessed to him that they had neglected to fast during Yom Kipper, as if their failure to observe religious custom had somehow precipitated their daughter’s untimely and unexpected death. They needed an answer, and having none, blaming themselves provided a handy explanation. As it turned out the couple’s otherwise healthy daughter had suffered from the sudden rupture of a blood vessel, something no one would have ever suspected or detected. Yet, understandably the couple was desperate for an answer, and the answer that was in reach was to blame themselves.
We don’t do well with unanswered questions, and human nature desires there be logical explanations for everything. The good news is that most of the knowledge we have obtained thus far — from scientific discovery to the development and advancement of such disciplines as mathematics, engineering, philosophy, psychology, theology, art, music, and the study of history — is the result of our high sense of intellectual curiosity and desire for explanations. The bad news is that it is also the reason we have such a tendency to place blame when things go awry — blaming others, ourselves, even God.
On January 28, 1986, just seventy-three minutes after launch, the whole world watched as the space shuttle Challenger broke apart killing all seven crew members. What went wrong and whose fault was it, we all asked? Extensive investigation eventually proved that an O-ring seal, which was not designed to fly under unusually cold conditions, failed at liftoff. Who would have known? Yet tragic as it was, our intellectual curiosity from the Challenger incident has led to great advancements in space travel.
Knowledge is never perfect or complete. So, there will always be unanswered questions we must suffer. But these unanswered questions are why need hope; for it is hope that inspires the human spirit. Therefore, “. . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us . . .”