By Deacon David Cranston
Where is God in all the suffering? British author Amy Ewing Orr asks this question in a book of the same title. She goes on to point out that, of all the major world religions, Christianity is the only faith tradition that directly confronts the problem of suffering.
Some religions encourage their followers to seek detachment as a way of processing suffering. Others see suffering as punishment for a wrong committed in another life, while others see suffering as the will of God.
Christianity introduces us to a God who is with us in pain, and suffers along with us. We can trust what Jesus Christ has to say about suffering, pain and death because he went through suffering, pain and death. What does Jesus say about all this?
His ultimate response to suffering is the glory of the resurrection. Other passages in Scripture offer us comfort as well. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me,” Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John. He goes on to say:
“In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
The words of Jesus echo down the ages to us, whenever we experience the torment of suffering: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in me … I have prepared a place for you … I will take you to come and be with me.
In the Book of Revelation, we read, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”
So where is God in all the suffering? He is right here with us. He desires to be in a relationship with us and share in our deepest suffering. He promises to take us to his Father’s house where he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at email@example.com.)