Anytime we see the devastation caused by something like Hurricane Harvey, we can’t help but ask, “Why?” Why would God allow such weather patterns to persist where an unprecedented fifty plus inches of rain would fall in one geographic area? Why would God allow loss of life, human suffering, and economic fallout of over $160 billion, which is more than the costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy put together?
When we ask these questions at a global level, we also begin to ask them at a personal level. Why did God allow my child to get cancer? Why did God allow me to lose my job? Why did God allow my marriage to fall apart?
You know, as well as I, there are no easy answers, because these are not easy questions. Shallow answers given to deep questions of pain and suffering help no one. Deep questions require deep answers. And there is no greater depth than love.
In a lecture at Socrates in the City, Dr. Peter Kreeft shares several answers to the problem of suffering. One answer is God’s invitation to trust, the same invitation parents give to children: “You can’t understand right now, but you can trust me.”
Another answer is hope, which is directed toward the future. Saint Teresa of Avila experienced more than her fair share of suffering. In her search for answers, she wrote, “The most horrible life on earth filled with the most atrocious sufferings will be seen from the viewpoint of heaven to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel” (“Making Sense Out of Suffering,” Socrates in the City, 54).
The deepest answer of all, though, is love. What’s the true aim of love? Oneness. Closeness. Intimacy. “According to Christianity,” Kreeft writes, “God acted that way. When He came to earth to solve the problem of suffering, He didn’t give us a technique for getting out of it; He didn’t give us a philosophical or mystical explanation of it. He invited us to participate in it, because He participated in ours” (idem.).
He concludes by saying, “I think the most moving divine answer to the problem of suffering is the shortest verse in the Bible. When Jesus’s close friend Lazarus died, He went to the tomb, and the words are, ‘Jesus wept.’ In the next verse, everybody says, ‘See how He loved him.’ That shows us what God thinks of our suffering” (idem.).
To all those suffering in Texas and Louisiana, and to all who endure the shockwaves of pain that continue to rip through our broken world: God doesn’t give a lot of words to answer the problem of our pain. “According to Christianity, He gives us a single word, and His name is Jesus” (ibid., 55).
“For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings,
so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too”
(2 Corinthians 1:5).
If you’d like to turn your love into action and help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, please go to http://www.east91st.org/hurricane-harvey-disaster-relief/.