“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The words of the Psalmist encapsulates the cry of the desperate who feel abandoned by God. These words were uttered by Jesus in his last moments. Even he felt abandoned by God.
Job, the exemplar of a righteous and innocent man, was subject to the most terrible cruelty. Tested to the utmost limit, he could still affirm his belief in ultimate vindication: “I know there is someone in heaven who will come at last to my defence. Even after my skin is eaten by disease, while still in this body I will see God. I will see him with my own eyes and he will not be a stranger.”
Rabbi Joseph Kushner watched his son die from a wasting disease. He wrote and counselled those who suffered terrible loss and had every reason to blame God.
Rabbi Kushner grappled with the question of why bad things happen to good people. Is this God’s fault? His answer is that God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck, some by bad people. This is the evidence of human history and the price of living in an imperfect world. Our response should not be one of blame but how we can go on living in spite of the shocks of human existence impacting the people around us. So he wrote and counselled as a rabbi in the light of his very personal experience.
Bryce Courtenay’s son Damon, a haemophiliac, died of AIDS caused by an infected blood transfusion on 1 April 1991. At the time Damon was writing a book recording his experience in order to help others. Bryce’s response to Damon’s tragic illness was to finish the story Damon had begun. It would eventually be published as April Fool’s Day.
Damon’s devoted fiancée Celeste gave Damon unfailing love and support every day of his illness by his side. Many caring people do that every day for the sick, frail, elderly and bereaved.
God responded to the tragedies and evil in this temporal world on Good Friday in the sacrifice of his only son, the exemplar of goodness and truth, guilty of nothing except love and forgiveness for all, which is free and undeserved, summed up in one word – Grace.
At 12 o’clock on the first Good Friday, darkness descended on the scene at the Cross. Jesus, in spite of the terrible pain, added a final cry, “Father into your hands I place my spirit,” and he died.
An army officer on duty nearby saw what had happened and said, “Truly, he was God’s son.”
For Jesus’ followers it seemed that evil had won. Yet, on that Easter Morning, when Mary came to the garden and discovered his empty tomb, nearby someone spoke to her in the most familiar voice, Mary. She immediately knew him and replied, Rabboni, meaning My Master.
Later that same day, two sad and confused disciples walking along the road to Emmaus, met a stranger who asked the reason for their deep conversation. They explained they had lost someone in whom they had placed all their hopes, but now there were rumours that he was alive. He accompanied them recounting the scripture, that this must happen according to prophecy, that the son of man be killed by evil men and be raised again the third day. Then he left them strangely warmed by his presence. Later he dined with them. Other experiences followed for his friends as witness to his resurrection.
The most miraculous encounter was Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road. As a Pharisee, armed with evidence and hell bent on stamping out the new faith once and for all, he met Jesus head on. That confrontation turned his life upside down.
The story of one man at Easter heralds new possibilities, a new order, a new life founded on God’s promises, fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Therefore, Paul could write to the Romans, “I am convinced that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Therein is Hope.
Image: Waiting for the Word/Flickr