Dear brothers and sisters,
This past Sunday I preached from the lectionary passages about the “problem of suffering.” When bad things happen in the world, or in our lives, often our first move is to speculate about why this is happening. We try to parse God’s reason for allowing bad things to happen, thinking that it is a mystery of God’s will.
One of the problems with this approach (there are many) is that we turn suffering into an intellectual or philosophical problem, which relatively privileged people are free to ponder in idle moments.
But our Scriptures this past Sunday declared to us that God’s answer to our suffering is not to give us a theoretical framework that satisfies us intellectually. God’s answer to our suffering is to enter into it with us in the body of Jesus, tasting death for everyone, transforming our suffering into a place of embodied communion with the God who suffers and deep solidarity with all who suffer.
If you’d like to explore the problem of suffering further, I’d recommend the following resources:
For a theological perspective:
- The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart
- Is God to Blame? Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering, by Gregory A. Boyd
- God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath, by N.T. Wright
For a more personal perspective:
- Everything Happens For a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler
- This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers, by K.J. Ramsey
- Lament For a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff
As I made this list, it struck me that I don’t know of any BIPOC authors who have written about the problem of suffering, so I’d love to hear if you know of any.
As one of your priests, I’m thankful to have your companionship as we navigate the uncharted territory we are in right now. May we all sense God’s presence with us closely in these days.
Grace and peace,