The Suffering God
A friend messaged me the other day with a question about all of the prayers that are being requested for people affected by the recent and impending disasters in the U.S.
They wrote: "All this 'prayer business' seems to be messed up and confusing - the disaster IS going to happen, so what exactly are we praying for?"
Things are bad right now. There are devastating fires in Montana, California, Oregon and Washington, flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and what appears to be a disaster-in-the-making as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida.
I don't know about you, but there have been more than a few times in my life when I have wondered what God was up to, and why God appeared to do absolutely nothing in the presence of evil and destruction in the world.
And I have often wondered what difference my prayers made at all.
But what I have come to understand is that while God does not cause all things, God is present in all things. And because we believe that God is more fully known in the person of Jesus, we can hold on to some important truths about suffering itself.
First, because of Jesus we can know that God is intimately connected with us in all of our frailty and wondering. Jesus himself cried out on the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Second, and most importantly, the triumph of Jesus' Resurrection was preceded by his suffering and loss. Richard Rohr writes, "Jesus is not observing human suffering from a distance, but is somehow in human suffering with us and for us."
Because of this, we can know that the One who took on suffering, sin and death is the One who ultimately defeated it through his unconditional, uncompromising love for all of Creation.
I believe when we pray in the face of disaster, we can, if we are willing, become more aware of our call to love--a call placed upon us by the suffering God, who longs for us to be a part of God's resurrection story on the other side of the suffering.
May your prayers today for those who are suffering connect you to the suffering God, who longs for the reconciliation of all Creation to Godself through Jesus Christ. May you join God in what God is doing to draw us together in love to heal, repair, restore and resurrect what has been left for dead.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.