Friday, January 28, 2005

The Incomparable

I usually have something akin to a violent mental allergic reaction when someone says, "so, why does God allow good people to suffer?" A. The equivalent of mental muccus stuffs my synapses and all thought is over; B. My mind starts thinking through the experiences that have left me wondering this same thing, not remembering what my conclusion was each time, but ... can I give you a hug? (yeah, not really); C. Who are you? which was my reaction this evening.

My response was, 'I don't know' and that is because it seems to me the question does not probe the mystery quite nearly hard enough.

The first lesson I learned in thinking about this issue was from the book of Job and a wise professor. It is a hard question, but the question should only be asked (and really can only be asked) from within the Christian context. In other words, we are talking about the Christian God and his revelation of Himself and not an abstract Nice Divinity, which is really the context most everyone is asking this question from. ie., since God=Santa why isn't saying sorry to Jimmy and helping Mom clean my toys up on December 23rd enough to merit presents all year long?

This train of thought led me to the conclusion that much before "why" is asked (and I really think it is just inane and useless to ask "Why God" questions), "whom" must be dealt with. Who created the world that allows suffering? The Christian God. Who is this God? He is the Word. The Word who spoke the world into being. The God who called creation good (note: not nice or fair). The God who knew the suffering to come: His own and that of His children. The God who knew His own death to come. The God who sent Himself, the God who offered Himself to flesh, devil and death upon the cross. Here He Is.

Christ, I can't believe you would let this happen to me.

What would you have me do?

I'm so angry I could kill You.

You already have.

Why did God allow suffering? I have no idea. But surely He has paid the price.
Why did God allow suffering? I don't know, but Jesus.

There really is no proper answer to the question. At least, not the sort of answer that will fit on a flash card or a Bible tract; maybe more the sort of answer that fits on a painted piece of board with gold leaf to be kissed before it is pondered.

Tonight I answered my friend saying, "I don't know the answer, but if anyone had the right to ask that question it was Jesus Christ." And didn't He? Didn't he ask it with blood seeping from the very pores of his skin, in the dead of night, forgotten by his friends? And what was God's answer? An angel, and that only in Luke. Not the myraids of angels that Elisha revealed to his servant. No, God sent an angel to 'strengthen' him. An Angel to strengthen the Son for the task. Divine support, and perhaps we might say relief, but no relinquishing of the task, no lightening of the burden. The Christian God did not deal in half measures, nor did He deal in almighty omniscience, wiping away cosmological suffering by tipping the heavenly scales of abstract justice. No, he dealt in flesh and bone, the nature of man, the skin and hair and blood. Now we can ask 'why'. Why this? Why this pain?

I cannot understand the Father who would send his Son. I cannot understand the Son who would submit to his creation. I cannot understand the God who would willingly create a world that would die, and in dying kill Him.

But the God I serve did these things, and it is only with such a God that I can accept suffering in the world. Only before such a God will I bow. For before this Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God I can do nothing but worship. And for me that is the answer.

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