Friday, January 15, 2010

Hope Amidst Suffering

Following natural disasters and tragedies such as that which has struck Haiti, there are some who ask whether this was the will of God, whether God caused this disaster, whether God is the cause of suffering generally, and/or why God would let this happen?

With respect to these questions of suffering and God, it cannot be said that He has merely stood by doing nothing, that He has merely “let this happen.” We live in a world, a physical world that is subject to various physical laws and geological realities, including the reality of tectonic plates occasionally rubbing together to cause earthquakes which might then cause devastation if they occur in populated areas. God does allow us to live in such a world. But we should realize that this world is not the be all and end all. We should realize that death and destruction in this life is not “the end,” so as tragic as it is, we should not think that it has the final say in the matter.

And that our lives might be snuffed out in an instant is a possibility for us all. Certainly, death absolutely will come to us all, ourselves and our loved ones.

But again, God does not stand idly by. Rather, He is compassionate. That is, in Jesus, God suffers with us (from the Latin “com,” meaning “with,” and “passion,” meaning “to suffer”). He does not eliminate suffering, that is, pretend that it does not exist. It does exist, and to pretend otherwise would be contrary to truth.

Rather, Jesus takes that suffering upon Himself and thereby transforms it. He joins our sufferings to His. In doing so, He also transforms death to life — death in this world, which is only a temporary sojourn for us anyway, to real and authentic life with Him.

If God did not do this, if He did not have compassion, if He did not “suffer with” us, then it really would be a devastating tragedy — we really would be without hope, it really would be “the end,” a nihilistic abyss. Sadly, for those who do not turn to Him, accepting His compassionate love, it is as if He were standing idly by, doing nothing. They are truly without hope; for them, everything is gone.

So let us give thanks that we do have Him and thus, the tears of the afflicted will wiped from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain. All will be made new again.

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