In Lament for a Son the philosopher and theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff notes that grief and suffering cannot help but isolate the sufferer. His book is an attempt to overcome that isolation by helping us to share his suffering to explain why a twenty-five year old son might die in a climbin accident. Wolterstorff offers no easy answers and he rejects any attempt to give the death a meaning by fitting it into some philosphical or religious pattern. He says:
I cannot fit it all together. I can only, with Job, endure. I do not know why God did not prevent Eric's death. To live without the answer is precarious. It's hard to keep one's footing. (p.67)
...the Christian gospel tells us more of the meaning of sin than of suffering ... To the 'why' of suffering we get no firm answer. (p.74)
Like God we suffer because we love. (Stanley Hauerwas Naming the Silences p.150)
Wolterstorff goes on to argue:
Suffering is down at the centre of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For Love is the meaning. And Love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history.
But the mystery remains. Why isn't Love-without-suffering the meaning of things? Why is suffering-Love the meaning? Why does God endure his suffering? Why does he not relieve his agony by relieving ours? (p.90)
All these questions come home to me over the past couple of days with the unexpected, sudden dying of a young friend - a thoughtful intelligent woman, exploring faith with a joy for life, a great sense of humour and a passion for justice.