Most of the songs that make up the CMY(K) project are written for and about friends. I am posting the letters I’ve written to these friends letting them know about their song. Below is the letter I wrote to a friend for whom i wrote the song “Diseases That Have Cures,” which appears on the EP entitled “M.”
I wrote the song “Diseases That Have Cures” with you in mind. Below is a letter explaining a bit more of why. Also below are the letter are the lyrics to the song.
Your heart breaks for the brokenness of things. You are one of those few who truly are moved by the stories on the evening news. Unlike many us who have grown accustomed to bad news, you sincerely expect that things ought to be better than they are. This expectation in you is valuable and true, thought it is often deeply disappointed; it is hope in you pressing against despair in your world. Don’t give it up. Neither should you give up your softness and sensitivity; they are not symptoms of weakness. They are part of the strength in you that shares in the suffering of others.
In our conversations, it seems that the thing that affects you most is feeling the shadow of God looming over the tragedies you are moved by. You have trusted God and come to know Him as both Sovereign and Good. This has left you torn between what you have known of God and what you have have seen in His world
When hunger takes a life, why does He not act?
When a child is sold for sex, is she not His child?
This tension doesn’t arise from a fault in your theology or your faith. Our tradition is filled with faithful women and men who struggled throughout their lives to hold the goodness of God in one hand and the darkness of things in the other. Few of these saints discovered or offered a cognitive, philosophical pathway out of that tension. Similarly, I can’t offer you a cognitive pathway out of your tension; I can share that tension with you. I can also suggest something I’ve learned from the lives of those saints as well as my own experience; That, even should you and I find a cognitive pathway or a satisfactory philosophical theory by which to explain suffering in the world, the pain in our hearts as well as the pain in those who directly suffer, would yet remain untouched.
Fred Friendly is noted to have said “The role of the newsman is to create a pain in the viewer’s mind that can only be relieved by thinking.” I firmly believe that the pain you experience at looking on the brokenness of the world can only be relieved in sacrificial action. The only ‘relief’ I’ve ever experienced in the shadow of violence, hunger and tragedy,.. the only reasonable response I’ve found has been to bear whatever degree of the world’s pain I can responsibly bear. You have chosen this way yourself; You have committed hours and resources to care for trafficking victims. You have worked to educate and inspire others so that they do not invest in a system of exploitation. You and your husband sponsor kids with Compassion… You have chosen to give of yourself… You have chosen the Way of the Cross. And though it seems like foolishness to some, those of us who have lived in this way know that it has power to change lives.
In the Scriptures, even when pressed by Job, God never gives a philosophically satisfactory answer to the ‘problem of evil;’ He does not wrap up the issue in an understandable and graspable package. Instead, and many years later through Christ, God offers the only response I’ve ever found to be satisfying on any level; the sacrificial action of the Cross. Certainly, there are philosophical implications to the Cross of Christ but they are peripheral to the act itself. It seems to me me that the pain in you is not so much a matter of philosophical crisis as it is a call to to suffer with those who suffer and to do so redemptively. I believe the philosophical crisis is real, but I believe the latter is more vital. Both offer a path a path of suffering: you will either suffer internally because you cannot make sense of the world and it’s Creator, or you will suffer in a way that brings healing. You have chosen the latter path. I believe you’ve chosen well.
I’m not suggesting, nor would I ever, that such horrors as sex-slavery are instruments in the hand of God and therefore justifiable. I sincerely don’t have a convenient theological category for such things. All I know is that, even should we somehow “make sense” of the darkness or “understand” it, the pain in us (not to mention the pain in those who directly suffer from hunger, oppression, slavery etc..) remains untouched until we act. You have chosen to act despite your confusion. I think that’s wisdom.
A couple added thoughts:
Pain is not a concept.. It is real. It seems sensible to me, then that our response to real pain must be real rather than conceptual.
It is, in many ways, a luxury of the well-off to philosophize and theorize about suffering; it’s meaning and place in the world.
I wrote a letter to you, Lord
Not unlike the one You sent to me
Not to explain myself or anything I think
Just to tell you what I see
Which brings us to where we are now
Where I don’t know how to begin
You won’t explain Yourself to satisfy my mind
And I simply won’t give in.
They say Your love is great
But maybe they should wait
Until it’s their child dying of diseases that have cures
They say you’re faithful like the sun
I watch it rise most every day
But if I stand here still and wait here long enough
The sun will also go away
All you’ll say is…
You say your love is great
With Your body broken, Your spirit faint
For a world turned over and laid to waste
While your people treat each other like it’s some damned game
Cuz they’re all Your children aren’t they?
Yeah, they are all your children anyway
Yeah, they are Your kids dying of diseases that have cures