When adversity struck the biblical character of Job, only his wife and friends were on hand to offer their observations and criticisms. After Hurricane Katrina, a plethora of cable news reporters offered commentary 24 hours-a-day, every day. The real pain and suffering of the Gulf coast came into our homes every moment. How many times did the media personages stick microphones under the tired faces and ask, "How do you feel? Tell me about your experiences." The airwaves have been filled with accusations and questions:
"Why did local, state, and federal officials respond the way they did?"
"Why were we not better prepared?"
"Why did so many have to die?"
"Why are so many hurting?"
From the belly of the fish, Jonah cried, "For thou didst cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood was round about me; all thy waves and thy billows passed over me" (Jonah 2:3). This month, these words could have been spoken from New Orleans, Gulfport or Bogalusa. Where is God when the bad stuff happens?
Theologians call this question, "theodicy" meaning "the justice of God." If God is good, and God is all powerful, why can't little children in Mississippi find their parents? A variety of answers have been offered. God has granted us free will. The devil and his minions are at work. Original sin has corrupted all of creation. Suffering serves as spiritual training wheels. There is some truth in these and others that could be added to the list. Nonetheless, all explanations remain unsatisfying in the face of a Katrina. We don't want an explanation. We want a solution.
Looking at the death and resurrection of Jesus, we know that pain and sorrow do not get the last word. We have a hope rooted firmly because of what God has already accomplished. We are a people who believe the good news of God despite what we see on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. We are to live and love according to God's greater reality. That is the root of the Christian understanding of mission. In the face of hopelessness, we witness to the eternal hope of our Lord and Savior.
Grace and Peace,