We watch the trauma of Haiti in the news, online, and tearfully scan the photographs of broken bodies under crumbling buildings, dust, chaos, and pain everywhere…. it’s enough to break anyone’s heart.
The emotions are overwhelming, and as the realization of the immensity of the tragedy comes into view the anger, helplessness, questions of why? and how? are inevitably not far behind.
The factual and cold-blooded response explains in terms of earthquakes, fault-lines, shifting of the earth’s crust, and the risks and hazards of living in regions where these factors are known realities. Or we could talk about the poverty of Haiti and the poor construction of buildings unable to sustain such a shaking… so they all fall down.
But more than likely, for most of us… there are no words, few explanations, nothing easy or trite to say as we witness piles of bodies… children, fear in desperate eyes, dust-clothed faces, crowds in streets, so few resources, yet another devastating challenge to an already-ravaged and tormented people.
If that’s not enough when someone who professes to be Christian starts mouthing off about God’s judgement it takes everything to not spit contempt and shove their faces down the deepest fault line you can find until they quake and tremble.
The Times newspaper in England is reporting today about a mother who injected her severely brain-damaged son of 22 years with a lethal overdose. She killed him and sobbed in court that her love for him made it impossible to watch his suffering anymore. She was a nurse and knew the consequences but her heart for him led her to end his life as an act of love and mercy.
I’ve sat with people like that….. what would you do? It’s hard when it’s up close and personal… whether earthquakes or suffering of any kind. There’s more than enough hardship all over the place…. and questions riding full gallop on the backs of victims who scream and cry for relief.
Despite ourselves perhaps, the question of God is also never far away from the lips of people in pain. Either he is cursed as the perpetrator, reviled for apparent indifference, or contemptuously dismissed as impotent and a fantasy anyway. So where is God in Haiti, or with the brain-damaged son and his mother, or the orphans, the emotionally depressed, and… we can go on and on……
I could never answer that profound question with a glib phrase carved in the precise words of a scientific formula, or a thesis explaining how earthquakes occur, or why there is irreparable brain damage in someone I love.
I believe that it’s impossible to conclude that God is love at the depth and level of integrity we crave by merely looking around us. Perhaps we see glimpses – but these will certainly shatter under the impact of a Rwandan genocide, holocausts, earthquakes, wars, premature death, rape, betrayal, you name it, and….
Where is God? He’s right there in the middle of the pain and suffering…. The greatest moral and spiritual earthquake this world has ever witnessed took place one overcast day outside Jerusalem. On that day the roles were reversed… God had entered into the midst of humanity in the person of Jesus…. he healed the sick and restored the hope of many, the self-esteem of others, and invited all into the deep embrace of a Father God who adores every human being ever created. He spoke of forgiveness and love, of restoration and life’s purpose, of the meaning of life and the power of his presence. He revealed himself as the exact opposite in character and demeanour as those who curse him in earthquakes and suffering portray him to be.
On that day outside Jerusalem we became the monster and with a frightening demonic savagery and relish nailed the love of God to a cross and mocked him with a crown of thorns. He had every right to call down all of heaven to kill us there and then….. to unleash an anger that would have silenced every human being for all of time. He could have flexed his muscle in a manner that would have caused the most arrogant and self-righteous to beg for mercy. Instead, in his last breath Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, they have no idea what they’re doing!” Like an echo in a canyon his cry still resonates down the fault lines of history because we continue to insist we are either victims, or we are our own gods.
When Jesus rose from the dead he revealed the limitations of humanity and the limitless power, compassion, patience, and love of God for his creation. It’s the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus together with my personal experience of his grace over my own life that provides me with my hope and answer for Haiti, Frances Inglis and her son, and all of us…
I don’t understand the why’s of suffering and trauma; I’ve only begun to glimpse the character of God in Jesus into whose hands I place my unanswered questions – while at the same time believing and knowing that he cares, loves, grieves, and responds more than I will ever comprehend.
In the mystery, the dust, the pain the love and presence of God revealed in Jesus IS……
After all we have done perhaps an even more profound question to ask in a world of violence and earthquakes is why would he continue to bother…… when we crucify him every day and then blame him…. I did that myself for years…. but nothing would satisfy and anger reduced me to a skeleton…. After all was said and done it was Jesus who reached out and met me in my rubble, and with blood on his hands rescued me…… I’m so sure that he’s in Haiti right now doing the same – sharing the blood and tears…. but bringing hope – because despite it all… he’s the only one who knows how to rise from the dead and take others with him.
There’s nothing simplistic, weak, religious, or trite here…. God’s love is a marvel, a miracle, unbelievable… and never-ending… and only comprehended (in a small part) through the revelation found in the character and person of Jesus – in history as a man, and resurrected as Lord of all creation… He was the first one in the rubble of a demolished Haiti…. cradling a crushed and dying mother, giving hope to survivors, gently closing the eyes of those whose breath was failing. He responds to each one just as we respond to those we most love – and even more so.
He’s right next to you and me right now – wanting to share more of his love, hope, and presence…. and if he had his way he’d rather come close before disaster and suffering strikes….
This song by Steve Curtis Chapman was written after losing his young daughter in a tragic accident…… for all of us wherever we are when suffering comes may we know God’s love…..
‘He knows the way to wherever you are, He knows the way to the depth of your heart…. Jesus will meet you there.’