Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: When I was 10, my little brother was born with Down syndrome. I have a brother who is two years older than I am who is just fine. Now our little brother is four years old and eight days ago had a seizure that the doctor said affected his heart. The doctor also told us that his heart is so weak he may not live much longer. We love our little brother so much. He is our angel. Thinking that he might die just makes me cry. I’m mad at God for giving him to us and then taking him away. My mom said that God knows what He is doing. She tells my brother and me that God is good, but I don’t think so.
Why does God do things like this?
–Sad Sister

Dear Sad Sister,
Daughter, let me assure you that God cries with you. He didn’t give your brother seizures or a short lifespan. God created mankind “good” and called us to live up to it. We didn’t. Instead of divine rule, we chose to be our own masters and invited sin. It infected everything, including birth.

God didn’t cause handicaps, but He’ll heal them in heaven. It wasn’t God that brought death, but your brother will eventually go to be with Him. You too will die, and I. We’ll meet your brother there (or we won’t because we blame God and choose another destiny).

God is good! We wouldn’t even know good except for Him. So please, don’t blame God for what He didn’t do. He gives you the love of your little bro for as long as you have him. God could’ve said, “Because of Down syndrome, he won’t be born.” He didn’t. Instead, God said, “This child will have Down syndrome because that is what nature will grant. Let him be born into this family that will love him and understand.”

So God gave you your brother. What will you do – curse God or thank Him? God gave your brother life for however long he possesses it, just like you. You’ll meet again when this temporary life is over and eternity begins. Your brother won’t have down Syndrome then, and he’ll tell you how much he loves you and that he loves the Lord God that gave him life, despite his minor, transient, earthly difficulty.

Brien Griem web

Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church (CCCC)

Dear Sad Sister:
God often allows things to happen, but He doesn’t always cause them. We live in a world where natural things happen, such as illness. We do not know exactly why God allows some things to occur, but He does for His purpose in our lives: to grow us, change our character, use us to help others, develop our faith. Usually, we are not able to see that at the time but much later. And I realize this does not help to hear when you are in the midst of your pain.

I have experienced bad things in my life. As I grew older, I stopped asking, “Why,” “Why God?” and began to ask, “What?” “What are you trying to teach me?” “What can I learn from this even though it is unfair, painful and my heart feels it will break?” God’s design for our human lives is to fulfill His purpose for His kingdom which will one day rule on this earth. His plans often do not make sense to us as humans.

We have to remember, as much as we love our family, God loves them more. While we miss those we love when they go to be with God, they will no longer be sick, they will be filled with joy, in God’s arms, never sad, and if this happens, your brother will be playing in heaven, much happier than he was here, and much happier than you or I.

Of course you are crying. I wish I could take that pain from you. I pray peace, God’s will and happiness for you. And that God would one day show you what He did in your life during this time. It will never completely make sense, but He allows things for our good, to grow us and to fulfill His divine will for mankind … even when the event that happened is the worst pain we have ever felt.

As humans we do live on this earth and there will be tragedy. But the amazing thing about serving God is He can give peace that makes no sense – even when we are in suffering.

Kimberlie Z WEB 0922

Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian,
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

QUESTION: What do you think of marijuana being used for medicinal purposes? I’m concerned that outlets for the dispensing of marijuana may just be fronting for individuals who use it and don’t need it. In the l970s, Stanford University released a study that indicated marijuana shrinks the brain. I think allowing outlets is not a good idea. Friends who know people who have benefited from the drug are trying to change my mind, but I still think there are better ways to treat painful illnesses.
 – Concerned Citizen



Dear Concerned,
I feel that this is a medical care issue first, but a moral and legal one in implementation or control. True, Cannabis is a plant. And it has a history of medicinal use in Native American cultures. But to call a medical need something that isn’t is just plain dishonest and a violation of the law. The dispensaries must be very strictly operated.

I remember a father of three young adult sons telling me, “Don’t believe marijuana is harmless. It affects the mind. I’ve seen it in my kids.” I believe it does lead to habitual irresponsibility, and that is probably brain-measurable; but that would not necessarily mean the effect on the brain is permanent. If marijuana helps people cope with severe pain, particularly if nothing else we know of is helping to alleviate that pain, then that would seem a justified use. We do as much with morphine, certainly an extremely dangerous drug.

So it would seem that complete regulation might allow for a similar medical use of marijuana. If/when marijuana is legalized and prescribed by a physician, it should be provided only by pharmacists in a regular licensed pharmacy. As to the benefit, I have to defer to doctors in that matter; it is not my field. But I do see a lot of politics in this, not unlike the regulation of tobacco, liquor and just about anything that is in any way legal, but dangerous –like driving fast on a freeway in the rain!

Fr Ted Ley
Father Ted Ley, Chaplain
Chaminade Preparatory High School

Dear Concerned,
To begin, I need to say that I have never used marijuana, recreationally or otherwise. But as a member of the clergy, I have had conversations with a number of people who have had marijuana prescribed by their doctors for relief from the pain of various illnesses. In all of these cases, they have said that this drug gave them relief that they had not experienced from other medications. It is also true that most strong pain medications have some negative side effects, including addiction. Yet we do not keep people from receiving codeine, Valium, morphine, or oxycodone when a doctor prescribes them. Why should marijuana be different?

There are many practical reasons why marijuana should be made available for medical use. One is that it can then be dispensed by and to authorized people, as other drugs are. In addition, having an outlet for the legitimate use of marijuana allows it to be taxed and controlled for quality. Legal dispensaries can also make its cost lower for those who truly need it instead of having the price fluctuate at the current black market rates of the illegal drug trade.

From a spiritual and pastoral point of view, I believe that we need to comfort those who have illness and pain in all the ways that we can. I believe that to withhold a potentially palliative drug because some people might abuse it is asking us to close our eyes to the suffering of our brothers and sisters. For these and other reasons, I believe the safe and controlled dispensing of medicinal marijuana should be made possible to those who need it to help make their lives bearable.

Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford, Minister
Unitarian Universalist – Church of the Verdugo Hills La Crescenta