This question was asked by the friend of a man in the grip of awful suffering. It was intended to help the sufferer understand his pain, but it failed in its purpose. The question was ill-timed and ill-conceived. That fact is, much suffering is beyond human ability to comprehend. The innocent are struck down; they do perish. We ought to tread softly, and speak with much reserve when we approach sufferers.
Is life the result of chance, with every accidental occurrence in it without meaning or consequence? Or is it a project in which have a part to play in building something worthwhile. Jesus favored the latter idea. Furthermore, he ventured that a life based on his values would have eternal significance. What will I do today: drift aimlessly, or build?
It can be instructive to occasionally listen to one's own prayers. They have the potential to remind us of our native desire to make God the servant of our ideas and values. But if God gave humans everything they asked for that's what he would become, and everyone would be a 'believer' for the reason suggested by Satan (above). God would be a genie in a bottle, facilitating our every desire--and we would not love him at all.
Most of us consider our means of livelihood too important to walk away from, and Jesus didn't intend to teach us to despise the work of our hands. But he did ask these fishermen to join him in working for higher causes than material ones. No labor or industrial pursuit is worthy for its own sake. These are significant only as they serve the supreme and eternal value of persons.
Why isn't life uncomplicated and easy? Why is every day a challenge? Why does duty beckon? Why does responsibility call for the practice of so many virtues? Why is being human a moral test? Because we are not just biological junk. We are splendid for possibility; magnificent for high destiny.
What reward? The reward of living high in the community estimate. The lengths people will go; the contortions some endure in order to win public approval is remarkable. But the prize is not much at all really. Flattery easily becomes scorn. Dedicated behavior also has a short shelf life when it does not reflect values that are ultimate and eternal.
It is not easy for any of us to entertain the proposition that another person's ordeal is worse than our own. Despite the plain evidence of whole populations that are worse off than me, their trials do not compare with my tooth-ache or the chronic stand-off between me and the folk next door. "Nobody knows the trouble I see; nobody knows my sorrow." It takes a miracle of grace to a person off their own hands and into the experience of others.
There are things that we have to do in order to get by: keep to the speed limit, pay tax, refrain from knocking over the neighbor's trash cans. We are directed to do many things, but the world is enriched by those who do what is not required. Going one mile only preserves the status quo. Going the second mile makes the world better.
Here pictured, is a God nothing like all the other gods. No menace, no exacting demands, no caprice, no hubris, no vaunted ego. Rather, the king of the universe patiently waiting to be invited into human fellowship. The Creator seeking leave to enter the protection of our household, as if a stranger. What kind of God behaves this way? A God who refuses to dominate by brute strength, but makes himself weak in order to rule by love.
God is able to preserve those who put their trust in him. His mercy will carry us through this world into the next. But he does this, not without enlisting our heart and will in his agenda. The appointed way for us to begin to enjoy the age to come is to embrace the loving lifestyle exampled by Jesus. To be loved by God is wonderful; to love like God is heaven.