What is our life in the grand scheme of things? The more that I study the Holocaust and the Crises of Evil, the more questions plague me like a shadow I can’t shake.
My mind, trying to process the horrific stories of Jewish life in the ghettos, death camps, labor camps, and the straight-up slaughter of over 6 million people, doesn’t see how God could just “let it happen.”
The oppression, suffering, and pure evil of it all feels like too much to bear. That people could be fully convinced that, deep down, Jewish people were the root of all evil and needed to be “liquidated” to preserve the “better, pure human race.” Following orders from a powerful man was easy because, well, we’re capable of being convinced that these acts of torture and murder is okay? How weak are we.
This leaves me questioning myself. My abilities for evil. My lack of love, compassion, and kindness to others.
As I try to process this event and these stories, at the core, I’m struggling to trust that God is still good.
When I look around me, I see that everyone experiences some level of suffering in this earthly life. From illnesses, accidents, and death, to deceit, manipulation, abuse, fear, and rejection. Sometimes as a direct result of someone else’s decisions, but sometimes as a result of… nothing? It seems that we are born to struggle. Or at least, that we should expect to suffer.
Today I wonder, wouldn’t it have been easier to never have existed in the first place? Why are we here?
As I’ve read through the book of Job, I read how he curses his own existence. He asks God why he was even born in the first place. Why he couldn’t have just died in the womb and avoided the horrible suffering he was now experiencing. After losing all of his children, all of his possessions, and experiencing horrible, physical pain, he sits in his own crap and curses the day he was born. And I would do the same.
I haven’t experienced much suffering, but I’m so impacted by the lives of others. The more that I study a doctrine of suffering and hear from others, the more I prepare myself for when the shit hits the fan in my own life. Sometimes I think about if we could have just skipped the process of having to learn, to grow, to struggle, and to undergo pain, what our life would be like.
But the thing is, I know that I’m missing the point. I’m asking the wrong questions. I’m focusing on a smaller part of the grander image.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have first-hand experience of deep suffering, and for that you might discount what I’m about to say. But I think however much suffering and pain we experience, there will always be a reason for joy. When we press into the suffering, and turn to the Father for comfort, we are met with hope. Pure, unadulterated, hope. A living hope.
“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’ and look on things as if man were the centre of them.” – C.S. Lewis
To those who have lost everything. To those who are confused about this little life we have. To those who contemplate giving up because it’s just too hard. To those who are so angry at God for their own existence…. In the very place of deep anger and anguish, we also find peace and comfort from a loving Father. A Father who mourns with us and grieves the sin of the world.
As I’ve talked with people about the weight of this, and wrestled with so many questions and confusion, I’ve been reminded that God is present with us. But if I’m being completely honest, sometimes it doesn’t feel like he’s here. Or that he cares. Or that he grieves the sin of the world that brings us pain. Because I don’t see him physically with me, next to me, or in front of me, I sense that he isn’t present. In part, I think it’s okay to be angry. God’s big enough for us to be pissed off. God’s big enough for us to question what the heck is going on.
But truly, we must confront the question of who and what we believe in. When faced with tragedy, we must determine how we respond. Along with our pain, will we reject the only good in the world? The only place for hope and comfort? Tossing it all out the window and cycling into a deeper pit of despair with no place to turn.
Or in our pain, will we choose to walk towards our Father and ask him to carry us through? To bind together our brokenness and fill us with is living hope. And then rightfully long for the day that we will be truly fulfilled in our humanity when Christ gathers us up and we enter into the rest of eternity fully in the Father’s presence.
Will we choose to be broken by it? Or will we turn to the Father and choose to rest in his loving arms and allow him to fill us with the hope that we need?
One of my professors recently said,
“We do not have a worldview, saints. We don’t. Only God has a worldview. He is the only one who can see the world and all that is in it. He is the only one who can bear the weight of what he hears, sees, and holds in every moment. He is the only one who can rejoice and grieve and be glorified through the entirety of the human race. And we should never, ever ask God to see the world from his perspective. Because we could not handle it. Rather, we should ask God to give us help us see what he would have us to see on our time here on earth.”
There are three things that have anchored me as I wrestle with this.
- Don’t compare. Your path of discipleship and growth will look different than others. You have been uniquely shaped and guided for a specific purpose, different than any other’s. And God will use it for his glory. Your amount of suffering with differ too. Following Jesus costs each one of us — and sometimes that cost is extremely high, while for others it’s relatively low. This may be where it’s the most challenging to continue to follow Jesus. Whether or not you feel like it’s worth it to continue following Jesus, the truth is that he is real. His kingdom is real. And it is only in Him that we will find hope and comfort. He is calling you into something, and with your own story, gifting, and measure of difficulty, follow the His call for your life and receive his goodness for you.
- Lament. Yes, God can handle your anger. He is big enough for you to lash out and cry out in anguish. But in our response, we must press into Him alone. So as we weep, we also worship. As we get angry, we also ask God to heal our soul and minds. As we despair, we ask Him to come near to us. We pray when we don’t want to, and we trust that He is good. We don’t give up. We don’t forget the Gospel.
- We need each other. This is too much to process alone. When we face horrible suffering, we need people to help us make sense of the pain and show us how to integrate it into our larger experience. Find people who will pray with you. Find people who will listen to you. Tell others what you need and invite them into your experience to come alongside you and support you. Share what you’re working through, however horrible it is. Find help from a trained professional who can equip you with ways to process the pain. Don’t push yourself faster or farther than where you are. Invite God into your pain and know that he weeps with you, and offers peace and comfort.
I don’t write this post to say I have it all figured out. Absolutely not. But I write it as someone who is processing and is working through things that I see in the world, and is seeking to understand how to respond.
If you’ve experienced suffering, how have you handed it? Where are you at? What are you learning? Where are you turning now?