Explaining where God is when we suffer, when there are no words
No 7 Quick Takes Friday this week. Blessed Good Friday to you all!
I don’t know whether I’m just extra sensitive right now or whether a whole lot of people are having a really bad 2013, but it seems that I’ve come across an unusual number of stories of great suffering lately. From friends, from blogs I follow, and from the media, I have heard stories that leave me stunned with sympathetic grief, wondering how the people involved could possibly survive such a cross.
Naturally, I often wonder where God is in all of this. I mean, I’ve read some interesting books that do a good job of talking about how and why a loving God could allow evil in the world that he created (this one probably being the best of the lot), and I can sometimes do an okay job of explaining it from a coldly theoretical perspective. But then I hear stories where the victims of evil have names and faces. I see suffering befall mothers just like me, children who are so similar to my own, sometimes even people I know. And then all my words are immediately rendered impotent.
What to do in these situations? Where can we turn when eloquent theories fall flat against raw human agony? How can we ponder God’s role in it all without pulling away from him in woundedness and fear? For me, there is only one source of comfort in moments like this:
When we rail against God for human pain, too often we’re picturing a distant God who sits aloof in his throne upon the clouds. But to see the crucifix is to see the God who allows suffering, but does not exempt himself from it. To ponder the crucifix is to ponder the fact that that man, naked in bleeding on the cross, is the incarnate form of the One who created each molecule on each star and planet in all the billions of galaxies in the universe. To gaze at a crucifix is to learn the story of the creatures who introduced misery into their world through their own disobedience, which they chose through their own free will, and then to hear the tale of the Creator who did not abandon them to wallow in the mess they had made for themselves, but who jumped down into it with them instead. It is to behold a God who used his own pain to transform suffering into a love-generating act, opening the door for his children to be reunited with him in an eternity of peace.
Each time I am tempted to scream, Where is our God when we suffer?!, the crucifix provides its own, wordless response: He is right here, suffering with us.