On Sunday, I preached that God is present, here and now, in this world and in this life, with all our struggles and pain. This seems very hopeful to me, so I was surprised that the conversations during coffee hour turned to the question of evil and suffering. People asked, why does God allow evil? Why has God given me so many struggles and challenges in my life?
We have been conditioned to ask these questions by an understanding of God that is outside of ourselves. God is a being, out there, who created everything that is and has a plan for all of creation, so my suffering must be a part of that plan. My grief must be a test from God.
The radical vision of God that Jesus offers is not of a God who is “out there” but rather that God is the divine reality of creation and love that we were created to participate in. When Jesus expresses love, compassion, and even forgiveness as he dies on the cross, he is showing us God. He is participating in God. He is being the divine presence we call God.
The implications of this are wonderful. God is not out there deciding who should suffer, who should get cancer, who should get a job, or who should win or lose. God is present in the dramatic, beautiful unfolding of creation. In the midst of that unfolding, good things and bad things happen: Suffering and triumph, death and new life, cancer and healing. God is with us as we go through life. God loves us, and God loves creation, and desires that we respond to that love with love and gratitude of our own.
God is present and we witness that divine reality every time we choose life in the face of suffering; every time we choose forgiveness in the face of betrayal; every time we choose hope in the midst of loneliness; every time we choose love in the midst of grief and loss.
God does have an answer for evil and suffering in this world, and the answer is Jesus. When we follow Jesus, embracing life in the midst of both joy and sorrows, we are participating in the divine presence. When we trust in Jesus, our sorrows and grief are transformed. We still struggle and grieve, but we also know joy and love. In Christ, heaven and earth come together and are both transformed.
Yours in Christ,