December 3, 2015

The Sufferings of This Present Time

Facebook has been serving this headline up to me all day. God Isn't Fixing This, it says. It's talking about gun violence, and politicians -- politicians who use God-talk to sell their brand (something else God doesn't seem interested in fixing, but that's a conversation for another day). As I've seen that headline over and over, these words from 1 Peter 3 have started ringing in my ears: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope..."

I can't speak for others who may have prayed or advocated praying for the victims of tragedy, whether gun violence, terrorism, natural disasters, or disease. What might they be praying for? Healing and recovery? Resources for rebuilding cities and lives? Wisdom from local and world leaders? Protection for first responders? Maybe even for conversion of heart for potential perpetrators. But as the next alert of a shooting springs to the top of the news feed, it should be no surprise to people of faith that the waiting world starts concluding, God Isn't Fixing This.

We, we who call ourselves Christians, have some explaining to do. The wondering, broken world is crying out, as it always has, since the dawn of Man, Where is God in this world of suffering and sin? It is not enough for us piously to explain that God made the world good and we humans brought the evil because we chose to make ourselves gods, true as that may be. People are crying out for a word of hope, not a sermon on Original Sin.

We want to believe that, if God isn't coming to the rescue, we can simply take matters into our own hands, as if the either-or is a god who instantaneously removes all the evil and rids the world of pain, or humans who bootstap our way out of our own mess. But the experience of humanity in every generation confirms that it simply does not work like that.

My friend Brigette Weier, a woman of God who is acquainted with suffering both as a woman and as a pastor, shared these wise words yesterday: "We're deeply broken and we keep trying to fix ourselves. We try and fix ourselves with laws. We try and fix ourselves with words. We try and fix ourselves with media. We try and fix ourselves with logic. We can't fix ourselves. We can't fix this. All we have are the promises of God to wipe every tear and gather us as one. On a day like today it's hard to believe that's true or enough. Or it sounds like a cop-out. But it's not. It's our true reality. It doesn't mean complacency but calls for radical action. Calls us to proclaim and point to God's kingdom coming. God's kingdom already here. Knowing that God is making all things new, even in the wake of violence and death, how will we respond?"

We say we want God to fix things, but in our various ways, when God offers to fix us, or to fix the world through us, we take a pass. While we don't all succumb to violent hatred, which of us can say we haven't succumbed to indifference or self-righteousness? I want God to fix it, but I want God to do it in some way that doesn't involve me. I don't want to make the effort or get my hands dirty. Most of all I don't want to notice that when I look closely at the ugliness in the world, some if it has my fingerprints on it. I don't want to change. We can't fix this broken world; we can't even fix ourselves.

I hear Brigette calling us out of our false dilemma. It's not either God or us. It's God-with-us, Emmanuel. God isn't outside this mess, choosing not to swoop in and fix it. God is inside: God the helpless newborn sleeping in a borrowed feed trough. God the helpless man hanging on a convict's cross. This God is in the woman ravaged by poverty or rape; in the refugee child dead on the sand; in the bloodied body of a University of Colorado police officer; and in the man sitting in a Colorado jail cell with the officer's blood on his hands. In our helpless and suffering flesh, yours and mine.

Like Mary, we may feel awed and confused by the idea that God becomes incarnate by putting on our flesh. Hope is conceived, gestates, and is born when we say yes to God-with-us. In hope I can allow my tears to be wiped away, and I can stand with others in their tears. And that hope itself conceives and bears love, suffering love that is not afraid to speak, to act, to believe that good is overcoming evil, that all things can be made new, if I can be made new.


  1. So well said. Thank you thank you thank you.

    1. Thank you, Leah. I think of us as co-workers in the vineyard.

  2. Thanks Chris, strikes to the heart of the matter of how we are called to respond as individuals and as a body. Such a powerful message for us to remember that we were first given hope because of our own personal stories of God in us. That is the hope we need be encouraged to share. Thank you for your wisdom and for sharing, very humbling and encouraging in the midst of a difficult start to the Advent Season where we wait expectantly for the birth of our Savior. -Jon

  3. Thank you Chris for your wisdom and encouragement. I have been reminded often as of late that the power of God and His hope is His story of redemption in our lives. My hope IS God in me and God with me. In this Advent season, I pray even in the midst of ongoing tragedy we would be filled with a hope that would overflow.

    Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

  4. "All things can be made new, if I can be made new." That, Chris, is not just the good news. It is the only relevant news, the only route out of the morass of fear and despair that leads to this violence. Thank you for this affirmation of new birth - true birth into all that we are created and intended to be. Let's offer that. Let's cry that. Let's whisper that. Let's touch that - all the way, if necessary, to our own vulnerable cross, standing in the way, in love, on the path of peace. Thank you for this.