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Asking the Clergy: What is the most difficult conversation you've had with God?

From left, Rabbi Orrin Krublit of South Huntington

From left, Rabbi Orrin Krublit of South Huntington Jewish Center, the Rev. John Vlahos of St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church, and Isma H. Chaudhry of Islamic Center of Long Island. Credit: Orrin Krubit; John Vlahos; Islamic Center of LI

We’ve probably all had troubling moments in our lives when human counsel seems insufficient. This week’s clergy reveal how they have reached out to the Almighty to seek answers to seemingly unanswerable questions.

Isma H. Chaudhry

Board of trustees co-chair, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury

Waking every morning to news of human suffering and injustices can lead to a state of hopelessness. I have had numerous conversations with God about human suffering after natural disasters, about the tremendous loss of life during the pandemic and about the hateful rhetoric in American society. But in our Islamic tradition, to avoid falling into despair, we seek guidance through God’s word in our Scripture in the Holy Quran and in Sunnah, the traditions and practices of Prophet Muhammad.

Islamic tradition guides us to be optimistic and patient. We can emerge from the quagmire of gloom by looking for silver linings in God’s magnanimity, and in the human qualities of responsibility and resolve.

Quran 65:3 and 94:5 state that whoever is conscious of Allah, Allah will make way to get them out of difficulty. The Quran reminds us through the prophets — Adam, Abraham, Job, Jacob, Josef, Jonah, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad — of a compassionate God, who neither abandons us nor inflicts injustice.

Serving humanity and upholding the values of benevolence and patience are human responsibilities; relief is God’s promise.

Rabbi Orrin Krublit

South Huntington Jewish Center

Before I was a rabbi, I was a son who had a sick mother. The hardest conversation I ever had with God is one that everyone who has ever suffered and grieved has had: Why me?

I remember being in middle school and crying in the shower, night after night, why me? The only answer that I can offer, the only one that worked for me, is slightly heretical for most religious traditions: God did not cause her disease, but God was there to help me through her illness and inevitable death. God was not all powerful; God did not cause her to get sick. Instead, I felt God’s presence through the connections and love from friends, family and community, all of whom were present and caring during her illness and after she left this world.

When she died, and even all these years after, I still return to this question, "Why me?" And I constantly recall the words of the Psalmist: "God is close to the brokenhearted." (Psalms 34:18)

God could not do anything about her disease, but my loved ones made the presence of God manifest after her passing.

The Rev. John Vlahos

Protopresbyter, St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church, Greenlawn

A few years back I began to seriously evaluate whether my priestly ministry was really making a difference in people’s lives. A doctor can restore your health, but a priest, I thought then, can’t fix people in a tangible way. All I can do is listen, take their concerns to God and trust that he will provide for them.

My concerns reached a head when a couple asked me to come to the hospital to visit 30 minutes after the woman had delivered a stillborn baby. In the hospital room we were all crying, and again I wondered, "Lord, are my prayers being heard?"

Shortly thereafter, I took a few dozen parishioners on a pilgrimage to visit holy sites in Jerusalem.

In the moment between my standing and kneeling before the Holy Sepulcher, the tomb where the Lord Jesus had resurrected, the Lord communicated to me in a mystical, yet tangible way the following message:

"All that comes to you, and all that you experience as a priest, and all the prayers you offer to me, it all comes here. For this is the place of victory!"

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