There is much brokenness in the world, in our country, our own lives. Isn’t it disheartening?
Yet, before we capitulate to despondency, remember what Christians of old have held to in light of suffering in the world: the promise that God has entered the suffering of the world.
The God of the Old and New Testaments, the God we profess – has not snapped divine fingers to make right all things instantly. Rather, the God of the Bible has joined the suffering of the world. God became flesh – God took on all the things that make us bleed in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
God became a human being who felt wretchedness and loneliness; God became flesh in Jesus Christ, Jesus whose parents had to whisk him away from Bethlehem to evade a criminal king perpetrating infanticide; Jesus who experienced oppression, suppression, repression and was shunned as a Jew living under Roman control, whose own family thought he was off the beam, who was a vagabond as he went about his ministry; Jesus, who yearned to see Jerusalem reestablished, who desired for the day of redemption to come.
God didn’t get rid of the process – God joined the process.
Jesus knows our infirmity and affliction. Jesus knows COVID-19, genocide, war, organized cruelty, lack, being a refugee, desolation, being pushed to the peripheries, death – so, God knows these stuff profoundly.
Being able to hold the existence of God and the existence of evil and suffering together depends a lot on who you believe Jesus to be. If Jesus was just a Palestinian Jew who was killed by the Roman government in cahoots with the Jewish religious leaders, and that is the end of the story – then, wondering about what to do with the problem of evil is an endeavour in hopelessness.
If Jesus was a Palestinian Jew, the Son of God, the Messiah, who was killed by the Roman government and the Jewish authorities, who then rose in bodily form from the dead, and talked and taught his disciples for 40 more days after being raised again to life, and then ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father after ushering in the kingdom of God in a new way, and God is making all things new in Christ. Well, then you have a theology of a suffering Messiah, a theology of an embodied, incarnate Christ who is like us in every way, except he was without sin. Jesus makes all the difference.