“Why, God!?” is a refrain expressed by all kinds of people and, most likely, by you at some point in your life. That’s because we all face suffering, on some level. The circumstances might vary from person to person, but we all have been touched by this fallen world and experience some sort of brokenness.
Brokenness of either/both body and soul comes in all shapes and sizes. Yes, it sometimes is the result of our own foolish and/or self-destructive choices. But sick bodies, broken spirits, and damaged souls are just as likely to occur simply because we live in this world that’s askew from how it should be. In other words, sometimes we really are victims of disease, accidents, natural disasters, and mysterious evil that we have trouble putting a name to.
In such situations, it’s very normal of the human condition to cry: “Why, God!?” I like honesty, and this is an honest question. Personally, I don’t “poo-poo” people who are frank and sincere with God. Yes, sometimes that question is only rhetorical – not really asking a question but expressing anger. That’s okay, too, because God is more than big enough to handle a question asked in frustration, even rage. Even a cursory reading of the book of Psalms reveals David’s emotions of not understanding many of his situations and exactly what he’d like to see happen. Sometimes he pukes some awfully raw feelings onto God – and those emotionally charged words made their way as being a part of the Bible.
I get it. Suffering is an unwanted companion, and we’d like to send it packing and have nothing to do with it. Yet, suffering and the evil it can wreak is not outside the purview of God. As heinous and as powerful as suffering might manifest itself, it is never beyond God’s capacity to touch it with resurrection power.
The answer to our “why?” question is, frankly, not usually answered – and even if it does get answered, sometimes we don’t like what we hear. I want to make an observation about the New Testament Gospels and the life of Jesus, and I want you to consider it for a moment. The observation is this:
Jesus never explained evil and suffering.
Christ did not send out fliers and emails for a seminar on suffering from a divine perspective to be held at the downtown Jerusalem Hilton. Instead, Jesus, the supreme Pastor, was present with people in their pain and wondering. Jesus Christ did not provide cerebral answers to questions; he asked his own questions and filled people with God’s grace, forgiveness, and love.
Jesus encountered people in their concrete real-live struggles and trouble, and, when a group of five-thousand people were hungry, he asked, “Who will feed them?” and when folks were struggling with how to make ends-meet, “Where is your treasure?” and to those with misplaced values, “What does it profit?” Christ’s questions were designed to shepherd and lead people toward a path of healing, not necessarily a way of being cured. Jesus Christ’s words and actions were meant to show people that he himself is the path toward peace, healing, and, sometimes, even the perceived need to be healed.
In the encounter with a Samaritan woman, Jesus, the Pastor, comes along and has a lengthy conversation with her that began with talking about getting a drink of water on a hot day and ends with the woman being in touch, maybe for the first time, with her deepest need of being accepted, loved, and satisfied. Sometimes I chuckle over some scholars and writers pouring over this story in John’s Gospel, trying to find the secret sauce or discernible outline to speaking with people in need of emotional and spiritual healing or enlightenment. Yet, again, I’ll just make a simple observation about the story:
Jesus put love where love was not.
The woman did not have love from the Jews because she was a “half-breed” Samaritan. Furthermore, she had a string of loveless marriages and was with a man who apparently was just using her. Then, Jesus showed up. He abandoned all contemporary Jewish convention by speaking with a Samaritan woman. He put his agenda on hold. He was fully present to her. He asked questions and took the time to listen. And then he extended to her the kind of love that she desperately needed. Drinking water from a deep well became a powerful metaphor and picture of cleansing and refreshment to a dry and parched soul that had not known love for a very long time. Jesus changed her life. He put love where love was not (John 4:1-42).
So, let’s wheel back around to the question of “why?” and “why” we ask it in the first place. Typically, we want a fix. We’re broken, and it’s a big enough mess that the only repair person is God. God, however, doesn’t feel the same anxiety we do about the dilemma (in fact, he doesn’t have any worry at all). Instead, God does something we usually don’t expect. He sends someone to care, and another to help, and yet another to pray, and even more to meet various needs. Behind the scenes, far from our fear-laden hearts, the Lord of the universe is paying attention to us and orchestrating a massive campaign of love.
In those times when it seems chaos will win the day, and in those seasons when evil appears to have the high ground, please know that there is a God in heaven who sees your life and is personally writing a protest song against the injustice and unfairness of what is happening. And Christ’s resurrection is at the center of that song. When it’s sung, it will melt fear, cause demons to flee, and create transformation in ways that you would never have seen coming. Where we are looking for a supernatural miracle, God is eyeing to bring common ordinary people to your doorstep with a basket full of love.
When Jesus left this earth, here is exactly what he wanted his followers to know going forward:
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
The ever-present love of Christ shall never leave you, nor forsake you. You can count on it. Allow your “why” question to turn into a “who” question. “Who” will be with me to the end, will pour his love into my heart, and will hold me up when I can’t stand anymore? Every path leads to one infinite source of living water: Jesus Christ. It is to him that you and I are to find our peace and our rest.