We are not abandoned.

I am sitting in an airplane returning from a trip to the Pacific Northwest. In four days, I interviewed three people. One woman was in an auto accident. As she was driving across a desert with her best friend, a drunken driver missed a stop sign and rammed her car. Her friend and the drunk died instantly; the woman survived with a shattered jaw, broken arm, collapsed lung, lacerated face, and various internal injuries. She is recovered now, except for haunting memories and the prospect of plastic surgery.

A young man had a story with a happier ending. He and his fiancee were hiking in a ravine of the Cascade Mountains when an ice bridge collapsed, burying them under tons of ice. The boy chipped his way out with a rock and went for rescuers. A helicopter lifted the girl out and, after spending five months in a body cast, she healed perfectly.

The third victim was an eighteen-year-old athlete from Anchorage, Alaska. In high school he lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. But during his junior year he noticed a bothersome lump above his ankle and had it diagnosed. Cancer. He lost his leg below the knee.

In the past seven years I’ve interviewed scores of people like these. All have undergone severe pain. A grandmother in a nursing home with two weeks to live. A race car driver in a burn ward. Every time I return from such a trip, I mull over their stories and their responses to pain. I can often read their reaction with one look into their piercing, sunken eyes. Each victim plods through similar stages: questioning, anger, self-pity, adjustment, gratitude, hope, more anger. Some wear this pain like a badge of courage. Others spend years wrestling with God.

These encounters have led me on a personal ...

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