I have a framed calligraphy piece in my office that I was thrilled to find recently. It was made for me by a dear friend, and it says “God is faithful”. Then in smaller letters, it says, “weird, by faithful”. It makes me smile, and sometimes laugh because we all know that in life there is always fine print that can get us into trouble if we don’t pay attention to it.
The wisdom of that little art piece has become somewhat of a mantra throughout life. All of us have suffered through things in our lives wondering sometimes where God is in the midst of it all. Sometimes that question is a plea in the midst of a raging storm of destruction, sometimes it’s the quiet, tearful prayer in the dark of night. We have all had those moments, or perhaps years when we have asked the question of God, “Where ARE you?”
The short answer is that God is in the middle of it all, right there with us. The longer answer is more difficult, because we know that there are more questions that we have as we try to fill in the longer answer. And honestly, I’m not sure that any of us have some of those answers.
What we know as the people of God, is that war, death, destruction, sin, and evil exist. We know that there are situations that we cannot ever explain, some that have no logical explanation. A police officer friend of mine was sent out on a call to probably make an arrest on suspected drug activity. When he and the other officers arrived at the house, they realized that somewhere there were small children involved. What they found a few minutes later were a brother and sister, probably toddlers, in the car parked in the back. The children had been left in the car and died from heat stroke. They had been in the car more for a day or two. My friend, who is an incredibly faith-filled person, looked up into the heavens, tears in his eyes and said, “nice touch”.
When I was pregnant with our first child, we went to our 20 week ultrasound that would tell us all sorts of wonderful things about our child, including perhaps the gender. As the technician did the ultrasound, she got kind of quiet, and kept saying the baby’s heart was beating. She left the room and brought the doctor in which at the time I didn’t really think anything of. Again, there was talk about movement and heartbeat, and my doctor told me to get dressed and that we needed to talk. When we go into her office she informed us that our child’s spinal cord had not closed at the very top, which meant that her brain had never developed beyond the brain stem, a condition that is not compatible with life. I remember praying that night asking Jesus to do something to save my child.
The death toll in Ukraine is over 2,000 people, civilians and soldiers. People of color are continue to be harassed and sometimes murdered by law enforcement. I have heard horrendous stories from people over the years about the abuse that they have suffered at the hands of their parents, spouses, ministers, and other people in their lives. And then there are the situations that we all participate in by how and what we consume. The clothing industry is notorious for its abuse of workers; the technology industry isn’t much better. The earth is being destroyed by pollution of all kinds, and yet we continue to consume and waste; people in our own town are going hungry today and there’s no good reason for it. The mentally ill and the diabled have to wait sometimes for years for services that barely meet the needs of some, and those who work in the field are not paid a living wage to take care of the least among us.
Jesus tells those who are gathered that the evil that has befallen some isn’t because they were bad people. We aren’t bad people. The children I mentioned were innocent of wrongdoing. Sin and evil exist and they occur in the lives of both the “good and the bad”. We all have some behavior, some sin that causes a barrier between us and God. We all participate in at least some of the corporate sins of society and government; people we love die, sometimes in ways that tear us apart and cause us to ask, “where are you God?” From the cross, Jesus asked why God had forsaken him, and we know the emptiness and darkness of that place.
So, what is the answer to evil and sin? I don’t have lengthy, theological answers. I have one answer to the problem of evil and sin, and that answer is Jesus, the Son of God. It is he who still teaches us today that we must act against the sins of society and work for justice for all people. It is Jesus, Prince of Peace who compels us to help bring peace on earth as it is in heaven; it is Jesus, healer of the sick who asks us to visit the sick, those in prison, the lonely, and all those who need to know the healing love that he has brought into the world; it is Jesus who fed thousands who pushes us out into the world to feed at least one… it is Jesus, eternal Word, who has conquered sin and death so that we might no longer be separated from God, ever in this life or the next. Jesus is the answer. It is the only answer that makes sense in a world such as ours.
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.
Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place, *
that I might behold your power and your glory.