Humpty Dumpty counted to ten
Then Humpty Dumpty got up again.
Not the ending we know but a new one added on a CD of nursery rhymes. The publicity justified the new happy ending: “It’s sometimes difficult for parents to explain death and injury to a young child”.
A happy ending is what we hope for in every situation where there’s pain and sadness. Yet often our longing for a satisfactory outcome to suffering is not fulfilled. It’s not just parents and children who find it difficult to explain why such things happen. Our sense of helplessness is expressed more clearly in the original ending:
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Such recognition of our ignorance and powerlessness is itself painful. Christians try to keep believing that, though we are ignorant, God still loves us. Belief in God’s underlying purposefulness does not diminish the pain involved in experiencing or watching suffering. But it does create the possibility that there might be value in accepting and living with the mystery of it.
Jesus struggled with this paradox in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew God loved him, yet he also sensed that he was going to have to endure terrible pain. His prayers there on the night before his crucifixion expressed his fear and his trust but also perhaps reflect the possibility that even he didn’t fully understand how God’s love and human suffering could go together or that resurrection would emerge from his torment.
Ignorance is uncomfortable. But it is all we have. The way to deal with it is not to count to ten and hope all will be well. It is to acknowledge our inability to put together our fragmented and broken world and trust that in that very honesty with ourselves and with God lies a way forward.
Read: In all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8.28)
Rejoice: that though we may feel defeated by the world’s pain, God isn’t.
Reflect: What have I learnt (or what am I learning) from times of suffering?
Remember: Jesus too wanted to avoid suffering.
Resolve: to accept my human frailty.