I’m working on a book with the working title Hope in the Ruins: Christian Spirituality for those who are Suffering, so I’ve been reading, thinking, and praying about evil and suffering a great deal of late.
I hesitate to refer to this as “the problem of suffering” as though suffering is something we contemplate in the abstract or from a position of absolutely objectivity. We don’t. We cannot. Instead, suffering is an experience that has to be interpreted and understood in light of the revelation of God in the Christ presented to us in the Bible.
This is not an easy task and, as Michael Horton has pointed out in his book A Place for Weakness, it is wise to invest in developing a deep spirituality and an equally-robust theology prior to periods of intense suffering (which means now since we can’t predict suffering).
So as we think about the great evil that has befallen at the hands of an evil man, where are we to turn for answers or for consolation?
In the moment (and even afterwards) our deepest and richest consolation is in the person of our Lord who according to the letter to the Hebrews suffered and was tempted even as we suffer and are tempted. As a result he can help us in our suffering and in our temptation (the two are often close related–I’m often tempted to disbelief when experiencing suffering). And its in the context of a covenantal relationship with this suffering, emptying God-man that we can both affirm and take comfort in God’s sovereignty.
Today (and earlier this week as well) many people’s lives have changed in ways they never imagined. They are experiencing a depth of sorrow previously inconceivable. At this moment, let’s pause and lament to great pain and evil that precipitates such an act of malice. Let’s also pray for those who are suffering, and strive to exhibit the peace of the Gospel to the world of which we’re a part.
At a time like this, I don’t want to hear from the President or the Governor of Connecticut. They will try to interpret this event in light of the story of America. Instead we need to place this in the context of the story of God. So…even now, I long to be in church.