Where is God?
“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13 NIV)
I’ve reached a saturation point when it comes to watching the images from Haiti. The most recent articles have honestly become almost too much for me to stomach. I don’t know if I can continue to go to CNN and browse through their articles on Haiti much longer. The one I read today was about how the Haitian people are being forced to burn bodies in the city square because the stench is too much to bear. It leaves me wondering how I would find hope in this situation and make sense of such tragedy if I were not a Christian.
If you have followed this story at all, you probably have reached this same point. It leaves you with this feeling that is a rare combination of rage and numbness. And worse, you have no one to ultimately blame. No terrorists. No evil dictators. No imposing military. No maniacal madmen. Sure some have blamed wealthier countries for not doing something to build better infrastructure beforehand, but the truth is this is a half-hearted gesture looking to place the blame somewhere. We can’t even blame the industrial countries for global warming (as some would in the case of a hurricane), so we’ve got to shoulder our guilt somehow. All the earthquake in Haiti has left us to blame is Mother Nature while we watch the plight of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Well, Mother Nature and God.
Over the last few weeks I am sure you have seen your fair share of God taking blame through a position called “protest atheism” resurfacing. “Where is your God now” tends to be a common question posed by this train of thought. When asking this question, classical “protest atheism” does not necessarily doubt the existence of God in itself. It is more questioning whether the world of experience is grounded in and guided by a divine being. This position looks at evil and suffering and says, “There cannot be a good and righteous God, but possibly a capricious demon, a blind destiny, or worse still, an annihilating nothingness controlling our universe.” This position loves to point out that God killed innocent children and poor, indefensible adults. It is a cry that screams, “That’s not fair!”
My only problem with this position is Christian theology. In my understanding, the work of Christ would be definition of a “that’s not fair” scenario. The cross of Jesus Christ is the center of all Christian theology. But what some people miss is that the cross is not the center of Christianity only for our personal atonement for sin; it also has implications on who God is and how He chooses to operate in our world. And we must remember that the cross is not just the element of suffering, but it is suffering added to absolute rejection. Jesus was denounced by his enemies, abandoned by his closest friends, and forsaken by his Heavenly Father. While we can say that wealthy countries have ignored Haiti for the better part of 300 years, we cannot say that they are being intentionally abandoned in this hour of need. Talk about something not being fair.
Jurgen Moltmann addressed these same questions after people asked where God was in the concentration camps of World War II. But Moltmann points out that we can have theology after Auschwitz because we have theology in Auschwitz, meaning that God is found in the midst of our suffering. Or to say it another way, Christians can have belief in God after the Haiti earthquake because we can find God there with those suffering from the devastation. So when the atheist taunts Christianity by asking, “Where is God now,” I would answer, “He’s everywhere…and He’s especially with those suffering in Haiti.” After doing much reading on this terrible disaster, I would say that many Haitians would agree with me, as well.
The “protest atheist” position also claims that God has no power to save us from disasters like Haiti. The ironic thing is that these same insults were hurled at Jesus on the cross. Matthew records it this way: “In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”” (Matthew 27:41–42 NIV) Christ proved that it was not a matter of if He had the power or not; rather it was a matter of choosing the road of suffering, which ultimately led to resurrection, over power and domination.
The Christian story is one of God becoming flesh so he could suffer with us, conquer death for us, and then reside in us. And this makes all the difference in the world. The reason I have hope as a Christian is due to the fact that God entered into suffering, overcame it through resurrection, and offers me the promise of a better future, a regenerated creation. And until then, we as human beings will continue to “participate in the sufferings of Christ” until “his glory is revealed.”