“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.” Job was a good man, a righteous man who, because of cosmic wager between God and the Satan, lost his wealth, his family and even his health. And yet through it all he insisted that God was good.
The story of Job is a Theodicy. It is an attempt to explain the problem of evil and suffering. How do we reconcile the presence of evil and pain and suffering in the world with our belief in good and loving God? If God is good why does he allow people to hurt and to grieve and to suffer? If God is powerful why does he not stop natural disasters?
These are not just esoteric philosophical, theological, questions for scholars and academics. Everyone everywhere has asked this most difficult of questions: Why? It’s part of who we are as human beings. We hurt and we want to know why. We weep and we want to know that God cares. Cultures around the world and all through history have asked these questions. And after thousands of years of asking the question and debating the issue, what answer to I have? What wisdom, what insight do I have into the problem of pain?
I don’t know.
Now, to be sure, the flooding here along the Red River and further west in Jamestown haven’t been as catastrophic as in past years. There hasn’t been the destruction and devastation that we’ve seen in other natural disasters or in human caused destruction. But being here these days causes me to probe these theodicean questions. Why?
The Salvation Army responds to floods and hurricanes and earthquakes, and burning buildings. Our Emergency Disaster Service (EDS) teams offer cold water and hot coffee and the comfort of food to those in crisis situations. But even more than that, we offer the comforting presence of one who cares. Spiritual and emotional care is just as important as that cup of coffee.
And it has always bothered me that I can’t answer these questions. I do not know why God allows floods or hurricanes or earthquakes. I do not know why.
Sometimes I feel like I don't know
Sometimes I feel like checking out.
I wanna’ get it wrong
Can't always be strong
And love, it won't be long.
Ultraviolet (Light My Way) – U2
As a cadet on my summer assignment I was called to respond to a drowning. A group of teenage boys had been swimming in the river. One of them was pulled under by the current and swept away. The rescue workers and dive teams went to work, and the Salvation Army EDS team was there to offer sandwiches and beverages to them. After making sure that the food and drinks were laid out and that the EDS team was set up to do what they needed to do, I sat down in a chair next to the family of the missing boy. I sat there with them for three days until their son was found. And I said nothing.
What could I have said to them? I was 21. I had no answers. And now more than a decade later, I still have no answer to that kind of question, no satisfying answer anyway.
I could give those stupid and clichéd answers: “well, God must have wanted him in heaven…” or “It was just his time.” But I don’t believe those answers. And I know that when I suffered a loss in my own life that kind of answer only made me angry.
I have no answer but silence.
A friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing … not healing … not curing …that is a friend who cares. -Henri Nouwen