Pain entered our house tonight. In between the mugs of coffee and plates of tuxedo cake, a wall came down and sobs overtook a body. The dinner table held the crumbs of deserts and the tears of a saint.
Oh what to do as the young niece sitting diagonal to my hurting Aunt? My own mother, sister of my Aunt, rushes to her side and holds her tight, stroking the small of her back. My Uncle reaches from the other side and gently cradles her head. I blink back tears, rendered silent by this real-life grief displayed before me. Pain is real and as I watch it mop itself across our dinner table, I think about how frequently, even routinely, it visits this commonplace of our lives. Pulling up a chair at the dinning table, uninvited and unwelcome, the entire table wondering when it will pick up its dishes and leave. No invitation sent, in fact, every wall possible we put up to keep Pain out. A thousand protective mechanisms we employ to avoid its visitation. Don’t get too close, then you can’t get hurt. But, it seems no matter what we do, Pain, it cannot be avoided.
Cancer. The 6-letter word that invokes fear in the strongest of individuals: destroying families, separating lovers, fashioning widows and crushing dreams. Today we are told that nearly anything can be the cause of cancer. Excessive time on the cell phone causes brain cancer. Storing the cell-phone in the bra promotes breast cancer. Drinking coffee increases the risk of cancer. Yet, even those bearing a lifestyle of vegetables and daily yoga find themselves disturbed with the diagnosis of this 6-letter word.
My Aunt is a pillar of strength and one of the fiercest lovers of the Lord I know. And this is the path she walks. Chemotherapy, nausea and a hospital bed, a fight to be fought because as she says: Oh there is so much to live for. As I saw her tears and heard her utter fearful words, it was then I saw that she too is human, subject to this visitation of Pain. Her son asks why; why you mom? And I ask too. Why is it that evil often finds its way to the most beautiful and undeserving of humans?
Innocent children from the villages of Uganda abducted to become child soldiers and sold into the sex trade. Black men and women treated as property solely due to colour of skin, subjected to centuries of enslavement. Young girls sexually abused by their own fathers, irrevocably damaged from the inside out. Parents murdered in their bed by their own flesh and blood; the bullet released by a resentful son. Women kidnapped by men they once trusted and trafficked into a world where they are forced to sell their bodies.
Teenage boys that conspire to deal tampered drugs and commit outrageous mass murders. 100 ft high Tsunamis that kill 230,000 people in fourteen different countries, demolishing cities and reeking havoc. People born into severe poverty, a daily struggle to survive and avoid the many diseases that threaten their existence. Mothers that watch their unborn baby die within their stomachs, the hope of new life fading before her eyes.
We live in a world that drips in evil: We live it. We feel it. Sometimes, sadly, we even embody it.
A friend writes to me: I would never respect your father if he knowingly allowed you to be raped or abused. I would never worship a god that allowed you to be raped and murdered. His words gnaw on my heart and suddenly, I am desperate for a new understanding, desperate for answers.
This problem of Pain.
This problem of Evil.
My Philosophy class spent an entire unit addressing this: Unit 6, the Problem of Evil.
We asked the question, the age old challenge to the existence of God: How can an all-loving, all-powerful and all-good God exist when there is so much evil, pain and suffering in our world???
This is known as the achilles’ heel of Christianity, the hardest question for believers of God to provide answers for. And even as one who builds her life upon this foundation of faith, I too find myself asking this question.
It is more than a philosophical question we can tack logical answers to.
It is more than a heated debate topic.
It is more than an attempt to hurt Christianity.
It is a reality that cannot be brushed aside with classic, nice-sounding Christian phrases. God is in control. Jesus loves you.
Questioning the presence of evil and the reality of suffering is one of the most authentic, human inquiries we can make.
I have seen people reject their faith in the midst of tragedy, rage violently at the God they once revered and praised. More people have abandoned Christianity on the account of this objection than any other reason. How often we see that the reason for unbelief is not an inadequate hypothesis, but an unfaithful lover.
Thus, this problem of evil is of the greatest of relevance. And I believe that it is our duty, as Christ-lovers, to give reason for the existence of God in the midst the suffering, pain and hurt.
It bellows loud and clear, soft and quiet. In between tears and lonely nights and the darkest of places. I paint the question red with the blood of innocent children and black with the cries of injustice. It is a question that begs an answer and I am desperate to find one.
*answer to come in next post*