The day when religious extremists became the source of Western fear, when the first small circle of a lifetime of ripples came with that one phone call in the lives of thousands. A day when the world seemed like it was at its actual end, when school halted, tv’s were rolled in, and kids became fluent in Taliban politics. When air traffic and hearts stopped simultaneously.
And this is only one of many horrible, horrible events in recent world history. There have been what seems like an increasing number of civilian bombings and school shootings, not just in North America but around the world, begging the questions of citizenship and weapon acquisition.
Begging the question if God is malicious. Or uncaring. Or if he even exists at all.
How can a God who claims to be Good incarnate let atrocity after atrocity occur without seeming to begin to bring the justice he says is his?
But here’s what we need to remember. Good and evil coexist. Good has not overcome, but neither has evil. If God wasn’t good, or didn’t exist at all, there would be an absolute absence of good. No aspect of a bad situation could have an outcome of good. There would be no pockets of hope. Nobody to help. No future beyond the bad.
God doesn’t promise a life without hardship. To anyone. Whether you believe in God or not, bad things happening in your life is a guarantee. It is a condition of life on earth. One of Buddha’s guarantees of life. Life is suffering.
Knowing that suffering is inescapable, assuming that God is real and tangible and caring, we need to change the question.
Where is God when I am suffering?
In the person bringing you yet another meal. In the person sitting with you in your pain. In the community that miraculously raises up around you to make sure your family can function as normal as it possibly can in the circumstance. In the one moment that made you smile today.
That the bad has not totally erased the possibility of good, that is the pocket where God lives in your suffering. It’s called hope. Perseverance. The will to carry on. The desire to make the world better for your children.
Pain is real. Trauma is real. Death is real.
And mankind’s ability to perpetuate absolute evil is real.
We don’t suffer on this earth because Jesus has no power to build a barrier of comfort and love around us. It is not an absence of God’s goodness or power that we experience pain on earth. Rather, it is proof of His existence and love for us that we can experience peace, joy and love while enduring torment of every kind. That people desire to step in and bring us hope.
Suffering has the unique quality of bringing life. It is what cracks the dirt and covers the seed and freezes the soil and brings the dark that eventually births a new little shoot stretching toward the light. Flowers blooming in the graveyard, seeded by the wind.
God is with you in the suffering. And even if you feel alone, I can almost guarantee you that you are not. Sometimes it just takes the vulnerability of letting the tears drop in another’s presence that will bring forth the life from your grave.
And maybe, if you are the one aware of somebody else’s suffering, you need to be the first one to be uncomfortable for a moment and bring the meal or begin the conversation.
Maybe humanity’s ability to endure suffering and not be overcome collectively with sorrow, but have the strength to lift each other out of our misery is the greatest proof of a caring God. Maybe our highest call as human beings is to see each other’s pain and act as a shelter for it, to cover it with hope. Maybe the greatest gift we can give is to endure one’s pain with them until it has subsided enough for them to blink open their eyes.
God doesn’t will evil to happen. But he recognizes the potential to wield it into good, even if the goodness looks a little differently than we had dreamed. He recognizes the opportunity for people to be community, for neighbors to become brothers and sisters, for us to become a little more empathetic, a little more human.
9/11 changed life as many people knew it. But rather than living out of fear and bitterness that isolates, let’s choose to live out of freedom. The freedom to live in a hope that liberates and has the power to resurrect death into something different. A new beacon on the city skyline that represents togetherness united by hope.