Tuesday, June 05, 2012

"Where is God when it hurts?" - 3 Responses

One of the biggest struggles people of faith have is to reconcile God's goodness with the evil and suffering they see each day. Simply put, if God is a good Creator who creates all good, then why is there evil in the world? If God creates everything, isn't it true that evil is also created by God? While philosophers ponder about the problem of evil, people who suffer from evil under the sun often ask: "Where is God when it hurts?"

There are at least three ways to approach this question. The first counters the question with another question. The second does not even bother to ask the question, but rally around the people in pain. It defaults to simply trusting God to reveal answers in God's perfect time.

A) "Where is the Church when it hurts?"

This is Philip Yancey's approach when he was asked the same question following the Virginia Tech University gun massacre back in April 2007. The main point is to refocus the question back to the person asking the question. Philosophers tend to treat the problem of evil from a distant perspective, bringing forth all kinds of arguments for or against any type of answers. We are not able to speak for God for things we do not understand. The best way for us on earth is to learn to comfort, to walk with, and to understand as best as we can, the suffering our friends or loved ones are going through. The Church is called to do this. In the beatitude, it says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). God often use people of faith to comfort people in their communities. In the age of the Internet, this ability to comfort can reach a great distance. A warm assuring hug is far better than a good intellectual answer.

B) A Band-Aid Community, Not Questions and Answers

This approach is practised by the Amish people. In the aftermath of the horrible killings of four young Amish girls, the rest of the world watched in bewilderment to see how the Amish community banded together without even bothering to ask the question about "Where is God?" Instead, they already knew where God is, and their focus was on healing, on recovery, on forgiveness, and on adopting a fear of God first. Yancey notes:

"They knew where God was. With their long history of persecution, the Amish were not for an instant surprised by another horrifying outbreak of evil. They rallied around, ministered to one another, and even embraced the killer's family. In sum, they healed wounds by relying on a sense of community that had solidified over centuries." (Philip Yancey, What Good is God?, New York, NY: Faithwords, 33)

In the absence of questions or answers, the Amish people simply provide a Ministry of Presence. True healing needs a community who can be present, when the need arises.

C) God the Most Perfect Comforter

God is there in the pain. God is there in the suffering. God is with each of us where we are. He is not the instigator of evil. Suffering in itself is a mystery. We can try to explain it, but we will always come up short. In times of pain and suffering, asking philosophical questions are not only mind-boggling, it is unhelpful. Better to put our faith and trust in God, who spared not His own Son, but allowed His Son to die on the Cross. Think about it. A sinless man. A blameless man. An innocent man, purest of the pure, fairest of the fair. Yet He suffered unjustly, died cruelly, and buried unceremoniously. This is God who understands to the core of our being what it means to suffer. It is because God understands perfectly, we can trust Him.

May the Lord guide us when and how to adopt a ministry of presence, of comfort, and of trust.


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