The other day I came across a decent post from Tim Keller on the CNN Belief Blog in which he discusses the question of “Why me?” In the article Keller answers the question as we all should, with an “I don’t know!” Now if a few other outspoken pastors and religious pundits would figure that out but I digress.
The article discusses four responses to suffering which seem natural for people to consider when they have endured grief and pain. Yet neither of the reasons are really valid.
When you get towards the end of the article Keller reminds us that Christianity is the only major world religion which teaches that God endured suffering with humanity by becoming flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. This is also the expression of God’s love for us. Thus in response to the question of suffering, Keller writes:
It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself.
So as God the Father sends the Son, God knows what it is to suffer pain, humiliation, rejection, and death. The Father knows what it is to have his Son die and the Son knows what it is to die.
As a preacher I’ve pointed this out too. I hope it is helpful and comforting to some. I realize that timing is everything and when someone else is suddenly thrusted into the depths of suffering (e.g., the death of a child, divorce, chronic/sever illness, etc…), the best thing to say is “I’m sorry!” and leave it at that for the time being. Yet when people do begin to ask those faith questions…
As most people who know me know, the early part of my adult life was in many ways a story of death. It first began with the death of my dad when I was 23 years old and then my own child when I was 29, followed by the death of my younger brother. Realizing that God understood what I was going though was of some comfort. I say “comfort” not in the sense that the hurt and pain was all gone but in the sense that I at least appreciated the fact that God was willing to endure suffering too.
“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'”
– Matthew 26:39