My daughter and I were enjoying dinner at Panera and delving into the theological quagmire of a good God who doesn’t keep bad things from happening. She has an up close view into suffering through her development work on behalf of the marginalized in southeast Nepal.
Our conversation was broader than the abject poverty she witnesses in her travels to Nepal and included the recent hurricanes that devastated parts of Texas, Florida and all of Puerto Rica as well as other islands in the Caribbean. It held her grief over the death of a dear friend’s stillborn baby. I added the earthquake in Mexico and the shooting in Las Vegas to the pile of suffering.
We wrestled with how our all-knowing, everywhere-present, all-powerful God doesn’t intervene and avert tragedy. We agreed that Trinity is relational and has given humankind free will. And we also observed how Jesus in the Scriptures trumped the effects of death, disease, birth defects, and mental illness with miraculous healings. The Bible also records that his voice calmed a tumultuous sea and multiplied a picnic lunch to feed a hungry crowd, thus demonstrating his power over nature and limitations of supply.
And we wondered….if Jesus, God with us, intervened then on behalf of the people he walked among, why does God not intervene now?
Distress wrenches deep places in our souls when we allow ourselves to feel the shattered lives of suffering people.
Pain etched on the faces of those who lost.
Grief shatters the countenance of mothers whose babies were crushed in fallen buildings.
Hopelessness reflected in the eyes of women and children without resources.
Men with shoulders slumped under the weight of heartache.
Our souls assaulted with the constant fighting between nations and within nations, between people and within the hearts of people. And all the innocent ones caught in the middle.
In our anguish we bellow…Why??? And find no solace.
My daughter speaks of a vulnerable God. I remember Jesus who wept at his friend’s grave and wailed over the city of Jerusalem. How do I reconcile the reality of the suffering in the world with my belief in a good God?
Am I asking the wrong questions? What if I ask these questions?
Who are you, God? Who are you to me?
What are you doing, God? What can I do to alleviate suffering from my place in the world?
Where are God’s fingerprints in the world, in my life?
When will God’s kingdom come? When will peace trump my need for understanding?
How is God speaking in these circumstances? How is God speaking through me?
Perhaps if I hold these questions in my heart and listen for God, I will say like Job of old, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”
Photo Credit: Deb Turnow
Melanie Horning is learning to ask better questions, offer herself and others compassion without judgment, and accept what is with gratitude. She likes indulging in homemade coffee ice cream, exploring the world through the eyes of her toddler granddaughter, and listening to the night sounds . It is her privilege to offer spiritual direction to people on the journey of life.