Right now we are in a season of advent. A season in which we remember Emmanuel- God with us. Jesus came not to explain the existence of pain and suffering, nor to rescue us from it. His response to human suffering was to enter into it himself. He came to endure it with us- for us. God is here in the midst of our suffering.
There are no words for what happened in Connecticut this weekend. But my thoughts, along with everyone else trail to, “Why, God? Why?” I hear people claiming that these terrible things happen because we have removed God from our schools and political platforms. It kind of baffles me really, that people who claim to know God would say that. Suggesting that we have the power to remove the creator of the universe from our school buildings and society. That somehow we have just kicked Him out and kept Him from entering in. That He isn’t present in people and places everywhere. The God I have read about and come to know isn’t easily dictated by humanity, and he certainly doesn’t give up quickly.
In Hosea 12, God says, “My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.” Our God feels and knows pain. The book of Jeremiah is loaded with images of God’s heartbreak and desire for the Israelites to turn back to Him. It doesn’t matter how many times they mess up or how many times they “take Him out” of life- He’s there. Waiting. Watching. Involved. When God saw what humankind was capable of in Genesis, He responded with grieving. What kind of God chooses to feel the pain that mere humans feel? Emmanuel- God with us.
In Jesus, God sent someone to take on all our mistakes, our burdens, our suffering. He was innocent! His “crime” was being crazy enough to suggest that to be the first, you must be the last. Declaring that God’s blessing was upon the poor, not the rich. For telling the religious, self-righteous bastards to shut up (Matthew 23) and justifying the sinner with a repentant heart (Luke 18). And that it’s not enough to just “love” people.
The crucifixion story amazes me because I see just how jaw-droppingly full of grace God is, even in torture, awaiting an unjust death. His first words on the cross are to ask God to actually forgive the people who are killing him (Luke 23:34). Then, the criminal who hung on the cross next to Jesus, acknowledging Christ’s innocence, asks to be remembered when Jesus enters his kingdom. He doesn’t start confessing his sins or inviting Jesus into his heart, he simply asks to be a part of the kingdom. In his last seconds of life, hanging in excruciating pain on the cross, Jesus assures him they’ll be in paradise together that day (Luke 23:43). And then his last words on the cross moments before he dies are, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Jesus knows pain and suffering better than I ever will. God knows the pain of losing an innocent child.
I’m not going to bother trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. But I will take comfort in knowing that God is well-versed in issues of pain and suffering. When I don’t understand I choose to put my hope in Him.
Lamentations 3: 19-30 (MSG)