The end of April has been devastating. The words that echo through my mind are, "Have you considered by servant...?" All types of people, aid organizations, and government entities will coordinate to bring support to men, women, and children affected by these storms. Moments like these remind me of the fragility of the human condition and how quickly life will become radically different. Undoubtedly, we will face the age old question of God's involvement in this difficult time.
What do we as Christians bring to families who have lost loved ones, homes, and a sense of security? Can we offer anything that transcends the ugly devastation which scrolls across television and social media?
Suffering is the opportunity to observe what a human can be when he or she considers the need of another greater than his or her own. The thunderstorms which moved throughout various southern States reminded us suffering does not exempt any person or community. Therefore, as suffering is indiscriminate, the response of humanity and specifically the Church must be indiscriminate. Suffering opens the door for men and women to enter a condition in which all type of persons with all types of beliefs stand in need of grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer states, "the Church is unconditionally obligated to the victims of every social order, even when they do not belong to the Christian community."1 This week demonstrates a Church which responds to her obligation to offer good to all types of weather victims regardless of his or her commitment to the Christian community (Galatians 6:10, ESV). In the next coming weeks, all types of people will see beauty in the midst of the suffering.
We certainly ask, "Where was God?" It is a question that is being asked in tears, in disbelief, and uncertainty. Where was God? He was there the whole time and in ways which we can not understand. He is there as men and women run headlong into suffering to comfort and to be sustainers of people overwhelmed by destruction and death. He will be there long after the physical suffering gives way to renewal, to heal the emotional pain that will leave indelible scars.
There will be scars. Scars demonstrate that some type of trauma has occurred to the body. We all have scars. The scars which are visible are a testament of resilience and strength. Resilience in the fact the body endured and through a visible and invisible process the injury no longer influences the body. After the healing process the scar testifies to a new strength. Where is the beauty as we wrestle with the question of "Where was God?" and with the scars that come?
The only answer I have involves the suffering of a mother.
The young mother had the privilege of giving birth to her child in very difficult conditions but she was not alone. As time moved on, she was able to see and hear her child accomplish a lot of good for the community and the society. Yet through a series of events this mother once again found herself in a very difficult and harsh situation. Right before her very eyes she saw her child brutally murdered. The child she carried, nurtured on her breast, and set free to live in the world, was suddenly cut down. Mary surely felt powerless as she observed the death of her son. Yet in the presence of real darkness and real despair, God is there. Jesus on the cross and in overwhelming agony comforts his mother in her own suffering by calling John-the apostle who Jesus loved- to care for Mary (John 19:26-27).
In Mary's suffering, God is there to offer her compassion through the presence of another. What of the scars? Three days later God who succors in suffering, triumphs over suffering and death, announcing his eternal resilience and strength. What we know is that Jesus suffering comes with scars. Look at his hands and feet. Touch them. Understand that his scars tell all of us he knows suffering and he is willing to experience suffering with you. That is beautiful and this is the beauty the Church brings to victims afflicted by storms.
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christ the Center. New York: Harper and Row, 1978