If God is good, why do we have so much suffering?

 

Thanksgiving beach.jpgA question that readers many times ask is, “If there is a God and if he is good, why is there child abuse, war, and violence?” I understand how difficult it is to see violence in the world; especially when innocent children are hurt. Having been one of these children who was hurt, I understand how people feel. I was fortunate that as I was going through this terrifying ordeal, that I witnessed many miracles, including a near heaven experience. My conclusion from these experiences is that God didn’t cause the pain, but He is with us and helps us during difficult times. We are all given free will and unfortunately the kidnapper used his free will to hurt me. God clearly helped me through the kidnapping and for that, I’m so thankful.

Someone wrote to me this week and said that she understands my need to believe in this imaginary God, but that, “it was only my strong spirit that got me through. A loving God would never allow such things.” I appreciate this reader’s message. This is a topic that people have struggled with since the beginning of time. Historians all agree that Jesus lived on earth. In 1980, award winning investigative reporter, Lee Strobel, utilized his skills to try to disprove the claims of Christianity. His wife was a new Christian and he wanted to scientifically prove that atheism is right and God was imaginary. To this investigator’s surprise, he proved to himself that Christianity is true. The book, and now movie, is called Case for Christ.

That being said, when innocent people get hurt, it’s hard to process. There are terrible things that happen to good people. Really painful. We can’t change what people have done in the past, but I love the teachings of Jesus because he shows us how to respond in ways that we can live with peace and happiness, despite what has happened in the past. He is always there to help us to get “Through the Fire.”

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

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Thoughts from a Childhood Friend

Alina

When tragedy strikes, the aftereffects impact every family member, friend and the entire community. It’s like casting a stone into a pond. As the stone hits the water, a small wave ripples out touching everyone in its path.

After I was kidnapped, investigators, reporters and curious acquaintances bombarded my family with questions. My parents felt it would be best for my family to stay home for a while. My mom was a fourth grade teacher at Valentine Elementary school in San Marino. For a few weeks, both of my parents didn’t go to work and my brother and sisters and I didn’t go to school. After a few days, I became restless and wanted to hang out with a friend. I wanted to do something “normal.” My parents finally agreed to let my friend, Alina, come over to my house one evening. I will never forget how wonderful it was to just hang out, talk, laugh, eat, and play that night with my friend, Alina.

 

Alina has written an introduction to this blog for San Marino alumni. I wanted to share her letter here. Thanks my friend!

Introduction to Through the Fire, a blog by Katherine Stone

by Alina Hunt

Many of us may remember hearing the shocking news when we were in seventh grade — “San Marino girl kidnapped!” — only to realize that this “girl” was our friend and classmate, Katherine Stone! At the time, my family had recently moved to San Marino after having immigrated from Romania just three years earlier. Moving to California was an even a bigger adjustment for me than moving to New York first, and Chicago later, after escaping  from Communist Romania. Katherine, who lived two houses down from me, became my first “real” friend during a time in my life when friendships were particularly precious and rare. She and her family made me feel like I belonged and was special. No matter how bad of a day I would have in school, whether it was negotiating the rules of softball or feeling unfashionably dressed, Kathy was there for me, always positive and encouraging.

How strange and surreal it seemed to me then to hear that she of all people was kidnapped—something my family and I never imagined could happen in our new found “paradise.”

Decades later Kathy and I still reminisce about those days and I am still amazed by her immense wisdom, inner strength and humility in the face of the harrowing, near-death situation that she faced so bravely. The blog Through the Fire, inspired by her forthcoming book of the same title, recounts through anecdotes and pictures inspirational moments of Kathy’s journey through challenging times when she was ready to “give up” had it not been for her faith and perseverance, sparked by the life lessons she learned during her childhood ordeal. Bringing hope and encouragement to others going through tough times, Through the Fire is a refreshing and thoughtful reflection on things we have all faced or may encounter someday. Kathy’s blog is something substantive and inspiring to look forward to in one’s daily Facebook news feed, which can feel so negative or superficial at times. And it makes us all the more eager to delve into her book as soon as it’s released in early 2018!

 

 

Love is a Verb ~ Without Action, it’s Merely a Word

 

Butterfly Love.jpgHiking through the hills after being kidnapped, was probably the most difficult time in my life. Having severe injuries, a blood soaked dress, covered in bruises from beatings, and being emotionally and physically exhausted, each step took extreme effort. One thought that kept me going was that I knew that if I kept walking that I would soon run into caring people who would help me to make it back home. All I had to do was make it back to civilization. I was sure that the first person that saw me would pull over their car and help me. I just needed to find one person and I would be saved! This is what I thought; however I would soon discover that I was very wrong. I would soon experience a profound sense of disappointment as car after car passed me without stopping. By passers slowed their cars enough to get a good look at me with shock and then continued to drive on. Each time this happened, my heart sunk. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t stop and help me. As I came to a residential area, and passed people as we walked on the sidewalk, I felt that these weren’t “bad” people, yet everyone avoided me, looked away or sped off quickly. As disappointing as it was to experience how the kidnapper could be so cruel and thoughtless, the fact that others wouldn’t help me may have been even more disappointing. They looked at me as if I was “trouble”. Maybe they thought I was a runaway, homeless, or mixed up with the wrong type of people. Maybe they were afraid that if they stopped to help that they may be accused of hurting me or maybe they thought that the person who did this to me would hurt them if they got involved. Maybe they felt it was none of their business, not their responsibility; someone else will help me. Maybe they were just busy.  Maybe they never really thought about helping other people before. We will never understand why the people who passed me that day didn’t stop and help. There’s nothing we can do now to change the past. I hope by sharing my story that I can bring awareness so that we, as a society, will become brave and caring individuals and help people who desperately need our assistance.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta devoted her life to showing love to people who were dying in the streets. She picked them up, brought them to a home where they could die with love, joy and the peace of Christ. Mother Teresa spoke of loving with actions, rather than words. One time, she was inviting to a conference about ending world hunger. When she arrived to the conference, right in front of the door where hundreds of people passed to go into the conference to discuss how they would end hunger within 15 years, she found a dying man. Mother Teresa didn’t attend the conference that day, instead she brought the dying man home. He soon died – he died of hunger. Everyone in the conference talked about ending hunger, and the man that they passed on their way in died.

I wonder if one reason we don’t help others is because we judge. Did the people who passed the dying man judge him and is this why they didn’t help him? Did they feel their work in the conference was more important than the man? We are all precious to God. The man in the streets, those who are wealthy, those with disabilities, those who are healthy, all shades of skin color, you, me, and everyone – He loves all of us.

“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus spent his time loving and doing good deeds. If we are trying to live like Jesus then we need to put our love in action also. Just as our Heavenly Father sent Jesus, He sent us to love one another.

“We show love by thoughtfulness, by kindness, by sharing joy, by sharing a smile… through the little things.” Mother Teresa

Love is a verb and has to be put into action to have real meaning. We have all seen vicious arguments on social media where people are trying to convince others with their words to do good works. While many of the intentions of those arguing may have started with a good hearted intentions, talking alone isn’t enough. Instead of talking, we need to take action. We need to become comfortable being inconvenienced; to go out of our way to help others.

With all of the problems in the world, it can be difficult to know where to help. Mother Teresa has beautifully offered advice for us-

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I only look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time. Just one, one, one. You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.” So you begin….I begin. I pick up one person – maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person I wouldn’t have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in your church where you go, just begin…. One, one, one.

At the end of our life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how may great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me I was homeless and you took me in.’

Hungry not only for bread – but hungry for love.

Naked not only for clothing – but naked of human dignity and respect.

Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks – but homeless because of rejection.

This is Christ in distressing disguise.” Mother Teresa

Let’s be people who love with our actions – on earth as it is in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Fire ~ The Master Refiner

 

CupAfter writing the story of my kidnapping experience, I considered the title for several months and nothing that I considered seemed quite right. The project of writing my story is something that I wrote off and on over the course of several years. One morning as I was preparing for work the title came to me. I usually spend a little quite time in the morning thinking about which clients I will see, what I need to bring with me for the day, and so on. I’m a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and work with families that have children with autism. On this particular morning, I wasn’t thinking about my story and then I had a random thought, “Through the Fire.” Since I was thinking about work, I didn’t put this thought together with the book. I pushed this thought aside and continued to prepare for my day. Again, the random thought, “Through the Fire”, went through my mind. I questioned, “What does that mean?”  Then I had the thought, “The book title is Through the Fire.”

Over the next few months, I contemplated the idea of the title, “Through the Fire”. The more I thought about it, the more I saw the meaning behind the title. I feel I can’t take credit for the title, because it didn’t come from me. I’m just the messenger. As I read back the last line that I wrote, I understand that may sound very strange, but perhaps this is how we get help from the other side. What appears to be a random thought, may actually be help from above.

When I considered the title, Through the Fire, the first thing that came to mind was a blacksmith who works by heating pieces of iron or steel until the metal becomes soft so it can then be shaped into a work of art.

Next, I thought of the process of making pottery. I enjoy making ceramics as a hobby. When making ceramics, the firing process transforms soft clay to rock-hard objects that are beautiful.

Another example is how diamonds are formed as a result of extreme heat and pressure. This heat and pressure takes carbon and transforms it into glistening, priceless crystals.

Just as the metal, ceramics and diamonds are transformed through heat and pressure, so are we as we go through struggles, or difficult times. One of the best examples of this is Nick Vujicic. He was born with no arms or legs. He had many challenges to overcome to get where he is today and even contemplated suicide as a young boy. He is now a motivational speaker and shares hope, love and purpose. He has a beautiful heart and lives a Christ led life. When he was a child, he probably couldn’t imagine that one day he would be a motivational speaker, a husband to a gorgeous woman, inside and out, and a father. When we are in the middle of the fire, it’s hard to see beyond that point. Remember that your story isn’t over yet either. Nick has reached millions of people to share the hope there is in Christ. Life without limbs is the name of his life changing foundation.

Another life example is Bethany Hamilton. She was a very talented, professional surfer at the age of 13. She survived a shark attack; however lost her arm in this attack. She struggled initially and didn’t think she would surf again. She was brought hope through Christ and was able to work through the challenges (through the fire) and she is once again a world class surfer. She is also a motivational speaker who brings hope to people to overcome through Christ.

I don’t believe that Christ causes all of the suffering in the world; however I do believe that He is able to take any suffering or challenging time and transform it into something beautiful. He can transform the struggle into something that brings hope and healing to others. He is the master refiner. It’s difficult to believe when in the middle of struggles, but life can be even better than it was before the struggle.

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die,

A time to plant and a time to uproot,

A time to kill and a time to heal,

A time to tear down and a time to build,

A time to mourn and a time to dance,

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

A time to search and a time to give up,

A time to keep and a time to throw away,

A time to tear and a time to mend,

A time to be silent and a time to speak,

A time to love and a time to hate,

A time for war and a time for peace.

He has made all thing beautiful in its time.

Ecclesiastes 3

The title, Through the Fire, is a reminder that we are going through our struggles and when we get through, we will be stronger and our hearts will be changed by the master refiner with love and beauty. There is hope! Your story isn’t finished yet!

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11