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ulysses Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-03-08 07:22 PM
Original message
thoughts on God and a sick child
Last Sunday night, I checked my work email and found a message from one of our academic coaches about a little girl with whose family my co-worker goes to church. Hailey Trainer isn't quite nine months old, and was diagnosed late in September with an aggressive brand of brain cancer.

Since I signed up at Hailey's Caring Bridge page, I've gotten near-daily notices of her mom's blog posts. I've never been the parent of a very sick child, but I've been the child. My parents hid their true selves well from me when I was sick, but I've come to know since then what they went through, at least to a degree. Hailey's mom is relentlessly upbeat in her posts, but you couldn't pay me enough to be her in the middle of the night.

I am, on my best philosophical days, agnostic concerning God. In my mind, a loving and omnipotent deity doesn't allow infants to suffer, no matter his inscrutable designs. A just God doesn't "want more sweet babies in heaven".

Hailey's mom doesn't share my theology, or lack thereof, and neither did my own mom in 1980. My mother would, I suspect, give all the credit for my survival to my doctors, but at the time she leaned very heavily on her faith. Hailey's mom is doing likewise.

If Hailey lives through this illness, it will be through the efforts of her doctors. If she does not, it will not be as a result of the will of God. I'm not going to express that to her terrified parents, though.
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Hydra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-03-08 07:28 PM
Response to Original message
1. If there is a "God," he/she/it is to us
What we are to ants. God is so big that "he" finds us amusing as he looks at our little antics, and tries not to step on us as "he" walks past.

Any god that took an interest in our species would not allow such things to happen. Nature, however, is quite brutally efficient- if you can't hack it because you have the wrong genes and the rest of us can't figure out a jury-rig, that's it for you.

Regardless, I believe in reincarnation, and I hope this child recovers quickly or dies without too much pain, and has a better time of it next time if she has to come back.
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rug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-03-08 07:51 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. I don't take the measure of God with sick children.
I lost a child who lived 300 days and there is no more hopeless and helpless a feeling. I believe in God and did not curse him, plead with him, damn him or debate him. I simply felt the presence of God as I did before, during and after my daughter's death. And I still mourn her.
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Hydra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-03-08 08:14 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. IMO, you can't do any of those things
You may as well "curse him, plead with him, damn him or debate" with an alien. No creature so vast could possibly have the same perspective as us.

If he did indeed create everything, then he loves all equally and allows things to work as they will.

Meh, I don't need a God. I need a sane human race, and I think that's achievable.
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CoffeeCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-03-08 07:38 PM
Response to Original message
2. I don't know if there is a God or not...
Edited on Fri Oct-03-08 07:39 PM by TwoSparkles
...but I'm open to the possibility.

I am constantly surrounded by situations like this. Parents have a sick child, a community
member has a terrible brain aneurysm, the husband of a friend dies in a plane crash, etc.

These are all horrible tragedies, and you rally around these people and try to help. I
often bring meals, take care of kids, listen.

Religions is always, always at the epicenter of these tragic situations. People praying,
talking about God's will. What is interesting to me--is that the majority of people in
these situations seem to cling to sanity--by believing that this is "God's will." If
someone dies, they adamantly believe that they will see their loved one some day and
that their loved one is at peace and in a wonderful place, looking down on everyone--and that
the tragedy, accident or medical condition is "part of the plan".

Like I said, I don't know what the ultimate thruth is. However, when a tragedy happens,
so many people think they do.

I don't have any anger, fear or resentment toward people who hang on to these beliefs as
absolute truths--but I find it very difficult to "fit in" sometimes. I pretty much believe
that when we die, that's it. I don't believe that a tragic death is "God's will." I find
myself sometimes wishing that people would put their feet back on the ground. I find it
more difficult to really be there, when I don't share these religious views.

It's not that I don't believe. I just don't see the logic in most of this stuff, and I'm
ok with none of it being true. I do believe in the power of the mind. I think there is
a lot we don't know about the subconscious, possibly a collective conscious and a collective
subconscious. Again, I wish I knew. I think it's possible that prayer heals as many minds
come together to push for the same thing. There could be some power in that. Who knows.

I wish the best for this little girl who is sick. Stories like that are unimaginable. I cannot
even imagine what a parent in that situation endures. It's like my mind won't allow me to go there.
These parents and this little girl will be in my thoughts.

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PassingFair Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 10:07 PM
Response to Reply #2
19. Not "always, always"....
Edited on Sat Jan-10-09 10:11 PM by PassingFair
My atheist father died in my atheist arms.

And his atheist family mourned him, as
any family mourns the loss of a loved one.

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Beregond2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-03-08 07:38 PM
Response to Original message
3. I think one of the worst failings of Christianity has been it's mixed
messages about God's omnipotence and the power of prayer. To be consistent, they would have to admit that the idea of human free will, and a God who intervenes in human affairs, are incompatble. Many theologians assert just that, but the churches don't want to take away people's sentimental belief in intercessory prayer. At their best, they admit that prayer is about changing the one who prays, not God. But how many people have lost their faith for precisely the reason you cite: something bad happens that they think God could have prevented, and He doesn't, so He is either evil or nonexistent.

Christianity has never promised happiness in this world, but in "the life of the world to come." And that doesn't mean heaven, but in the post-Apocolyptic "New Jerusalem."

Of course, there is another, mystical interpretation of the whole thing (which is the only version I can take seriously) but that has never been accepted as orthodox by the churches. That's another matter.
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Sal Minella Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-03-08 07:56 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. The idea of an "all-just and all-merciful God" stopped me in my religious tracks as soon as I
could understand the words. I mean, we all know poor people are poor because God doesn't like certain people for some reason and makes them poor, but I never figured out the "mercy" part. /sarcasm
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 12:11 PM
Response to Reply #3
9. People east of Suez certainly have an easier time of it
and while they credit deity with occasional acts of mercy, they don't expect them as a matter of course. Deity in whatever form is totally unknowable, and that applies to character issues, too. Also, such a deity isn't a micromanager of human affairs.

The problem with the all merciful deity is that it begs the question of how evil is allowed, and we've all experienced things we consider to be evil. Christians got around it by inventing a devil, although one wonders why an all powerful, all merciful deity would allow such a creature such freedom to act.

Such is the basic conundrum of European Christianity and I leave it to them.
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Silent3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 03:22 PM
Response to Reply #3
13. I don't believe in God at all, but I don't see the incompatibility... speak of. A hypothetical god who intervened to prevent an earthquake from happening wouldn't be interfering with any person's free will. Intervention to prevent a kid from getting cancer wouldn't interfere with free will either, unless perhaps in a very bizarre situation where that cancer was deliberately induced.

Going even further, consider what we typically mean by "free society". We aren't generally talking about anarchy. Freedom is maximized not when anyone can do anything they want to do (one person's choice of what to do using their own freedom could be, for example, to enslave another person), but when everyone has the maximum freedom which allows everyone else the same degree of freedom. This kind of freedom is sometimes summed up as, "your freedom to swing your fist ends at my nose".

I can imagine a god who imposes this Rawlsian formulation of freedom -- not just by threat of punishment, but by actual physical intervention, blocking the fist, so to speak, or the motor impulse that drives the fist -- and even that would be a small imposition upon, not an elimination of, free will. There are, after all, plenty of things already that one might have to will to do (say, fly like Superman) but which aren't possible to do. If murder or enslavement or illegal wiretaps suddenly became physically impossible the subject of history would probably become much less interesting, but would free will be that terribly diminished? Free will would actually be increased for those who might otherwise fall victim to the freedom-limiting actions of others.
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Rowdyboy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-03-08 08:21 PM
Response to Original message
7. If their faith helps them cope then who does it hurt? Denying them whatever comfort
they can find while undergoing a living nightmare would be cruel. My mom's faith gave her the strength to live several years after her doctors virtually gave up. We were told three times she would never live to leave the hospital. She had several more good years. Religion may or may not be a crock of shit but belief is a powerful force for someone who is hurting.

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ulysses Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-18-08 10:20 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. belief can engender some weird shit.
A recent update on the blog claims that the child is "suffering for God's glory", which I consider straight-up obscene. My thought generally follows your argument here, but I've had a hard time with the above statement this week.
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knitter4democracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 08:22 PM
Response to Original message
10. Think of it this way: she's grieving in her own way.
Many of us faced with horrible shit like that don't respond in the most healthy or normal ways. My MIL did the same thing during her bout with breast cancer. There were so many times I wanted to break down that fragile clay way she built around herself (that she was suffering for the faith, that God gave the cancer to her so she could help others with cancer, etc.) and make her face all of her emotions about it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I just plain couldn't understand why the heck she would say such crazy stuff, let alone act like she believed it.

Then I got my own cancer scare (surgery cured it, so it's mostly good now). There were days when I leaned on my faith in just the same way--just so I could stay functional. I told myself whatever I needed to hear so I could feed the kids, drink enough water, and take care of my family. Most days, I was numb, though, and when people would say those platitudes, I would get so angry at them for saying something so stupid. That's when I realized I had to face my anger or it would kill me before any cancer would. That started a long road of personal healing that I'm still on.

She's saying that because she has a sick kid and a family she has to take care of. It helps her get out of bed in the morning, feed everyone, clean, work, breathe. When the crisis is past and she can take the time to face it all, she probably will in her own time and in her own way.
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 09:45 PM
Response to Original message
11. Maybe Jesus loves us, but God fucking hates us.
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Shauna_Trainer Donating Member (1 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 09:04 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. Hi. I am the mom of the sick kid you are writing about - Hailey Trainer
Edited on Sat Jan-10-09 09:16 AM by Shauna_Trainer
Just thought I would pop in and thank you all for thinking about us and Hailey. Whether you agree or disagree about how I am coping with the potential death of my child really does not matter to me in the least. All I know is that unless you have sat holding your child in your arms wondering if this would be her last day with you, you have no right to pass judgement on how I get through my days.

I did want to set a few things straight, however. I do not believe that Hailey's suffering is God's will for her. That is ridiculous in my mind. What I believe is that this is life. Life sucks a lot of the time for a lot of people. I am simply choosing to go on with mine in a way that hopefully makes life better for others. I am choosing to believe that through the suffering, good can come in the end. I absolutely do not believe God chose this life for Hailey. I just believe that He allows life to happen and gives us the tools and strength to get through it and come out stronger on the other side. Is that so bad?

I do know that if I did not believe in God, I would not be able to get through this situation. And, if I am wrong in the end and we all just die and hang out in our graves forever, so be it. I just think it is better to be safe than sorry. If there is a heaven and a hell, I don't want to burn for eternity. And, believing in God makes this life so much more bearable. If the joke is on me, so be it. If it isn't, I pity those who will suffer the consequences.

One more thing...someone early on mentioned they would not pay enough to be me in the middle of the night. FYI, I sleep just fine when not getting woken up by beeping machines, nurses checking Hailey's vital signs, the sounds of her moaning in pain from the effects of chemo, and and the sounds of crying children going through the same battle as Hailey. Heck, you could not pay me enough to be me in the middle of the night if I did not have to. But, I am. This is what I have to do right now - try and fight for Hailey's life. And, if I like the idea of God backing me up on that a little, I think that is completely acceptable.

Check out her website at

Shauna Trainer
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Desertrose Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 05:03 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. Bless you and wishing you & Hailey all the best....
Being a Mom of a sick child is one of the toughest things IMO.

I've been there..caring for a child blue from pneumonia and hoping her next breath won't be her last. I've also done the opposite end and helped my Mother "cross over" as she did take her last breath. None of it easy but knowing there is "more" than just this life really made a difference for me.

Mothers just do what they have to do.... :hug:

Sending :grouphug: and love to you & your family.
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dcsmart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 05:11 PM
Response to Reply #12
16. thoughts about what was said about a sick child.
thank you for speaking to us shauna

without the experience of suffering, no one will understand it. the philosophical and theological blather that people wrote makes it clear that they have not experienced your suffering. i have not. i have lost people i love and did not philosophize about it. it is painful and horrible. that is the truth of living. give up your concepts of heaven and hell and the consequences of non-belief. let only the love for your daughter be your guiding light. it is love that makes us great and divine. for those who ask about a god that lets people suffer, my question is why do you let people suffer. is there anything you do in your daily lives that try to ease people's suffering. if you do then that is way it should be. if you do not, then forget about blaming god and start blaming yourself. if we do not show compassion to others like we want people to show compassion to us and those we love.....we are part of the cause of suffering. millions of children suffer and die each year. do any of you do anything about it. some of you showed compassion for shauna and her child, others coldly blathered about theology. in the face of suffering humanity we must be humbled and moved to action or understand that we make a choice to do nothing and end up acting like the god you condemn. i cannot understand your pain, shauna, but it is your courage and love in the face of such sadness that makes the idea of god believable.

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kickysnana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 07:23 PM
Response to Reply #12
17. Wishing you and Hailey the best.
"Whenever two or more of you are gathered" whether it is a hospital, sick room, church or even a message on a board like this I believe the message is heard somewhere because I have seen two miracles in the past year and lost my Mom.

The OP was doing what people do when they care in his or her own way. Otherwise it would not have mentioned at all. I am sure they meant no disrespect because I found myself in such an internet situation a few years ago.

The first miracle was a 72 year old neighbor with multiple organ failure last January due to a bad reaction to a medical test. The doctors had counseled the family that there was no hope, that it was time to think about "pulling the plug". They said "we will decide tomorrow". I played bingo with her last night and she had us all in stitches with her jokes.

The second miracle was a friends 3 week old baby who developed a staph infection brain injury following a horrible accident. The only hope the parents were told was surgery to remove the infected brain but when the doctor opened the infection was too bad and he merely medicated and closed and told the parents there is no more they could do. That baby, now four months, is exceeding all milestones for his age.

Then a year ago New Years day, my Mom,age 80 the heart of our family collapsed from COPD. Only her third hospitalization in a 10 year battle but this time her body was wasting because she had to work so hard to breathe. The doctors told her that with a respirator she could regain strength and possibly live a few more years in hospice but she had seen her father live out the last 14 months of COPD and opted for no respirator. She was transferred to a nursing home and she lasted a few good days, long enough to say her goodbyes to the many friends and family.

Oh and a few years ago I sat with my sister as she comforted her daughter Elizabeth who's life was 24 hours. Elizabeth had a rare chromosome disorder that was detected late. Most children are stillborn or die within an hour of birth. When my sister was in the room Elizabeth's vitals stabilized. That was the love. She looked and saw Mom and Dad, her sisters, the grandmas and grandpas, heard her aunts, uncles and cousins greet her. then gradually drifted off, her heart and lungs imperfect and not enough time to even consider a transplant.

And so it goes.
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Zebedeo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 08:54 PM
Response to Reply #12
18. May God Bless Hailey, you and your family
Shauna -

I cannot imagine what you are going through. I pray for the best for you and your family.

- Zebedeo
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 10:36 PM
Response to Reply #12
20. How does believing in God help you? I really have no idea, and no one will ever say.
And, if I am wrong in the end and we all just die and hang out in our graves forever, so be it. I just think it is better to be safe than sorry. If there is a heaven and a hell, I don't want to burn for eternity.

Only if you have chosen the right god. If the Muslims are right, you still burn. There are many, many gods to chose from.
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Crunchy Frog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-11-09 10:20 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. Why can't people just leave her the f@#$ alone?
Why the intense need to engage in a heated philosophical debate with someone who's dealing with a deathly ill child? People use whatever psychological resources they have to cope in the best way they can in that sort of situation. I can't understand the eagerness to judge.
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ZombieHorde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-11-09 10:41 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. I am not judging, I am asking a question.
If people don't wish to be asked questions, then they should not post on a message board.

You seem to be the one judging both her and me.
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Dorian Gray Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-12-09 06:48 PM
Response to Reply #20
25. I don't know what the problem is
A woman who is suffering through one of the most traumatic ordeals a mother can go through finds solace in God. Why do you feel the need to question what gives her peace or solace as she is fighting every day for her daughter's life?

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Crunchy Frog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-11-09 10:24 PM
Response to Reply #12
22. I wish all the best to you and your daughter.
I also admire your courage in stepping into the judgemental snakepit that is this forum to share you experience with the rest of us.
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Dorian Gray Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-12-09 06:46 PM
Response to Reply #12
24. Oh Shauna
I am so sorry for your sick child, for the suffering you and your family are going through. It is beyond my imagination.

My thoughts and prayers are with you as you suffer through this, and I truly hope that a miracle happens and that Hailey will fight this and survive it all.

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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-12-09 07:41 PM
Response to Reply #12
26. Peace and love and light to you and your daughter
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jeepnstein Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-13-09 05:34 PM
Response to Reply #12
27. The Book of Job...
had a wonderful lesson in it. It was the part about Job's suffering and his friends who tried to console him. The best thing they wound up doing for him was just sitting down, shutting up, and staying by his side for a while. This is not the time to inject drama into a worried parent's mind.

You'll be in my prayers. I pray you find the strength to see everyone through this ordeal. Sorry, that's all I have to offer.
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Desertrose Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-10-09 05:04 PM
Response to Reply #11
15. Maybe...maybe not.
How would you know?
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