When he was in the first grade, my brother had a crush on a little girl in his class. Alas, his was an unrequited love, the affections of his heart unreturned. So Eric appealed to the highest authority he knew, printing this impassioned note to the principal: “Dear Mrs. Martin, will you please make Erika Mustermann1 like me?” Nothing ever came of his valiant attempt, of course, except that Mrs. Martin, who was also our next-door neighbor, gave the letter to our mother.
As we grow from childhood into adulthood, our problems get bigger along with us—it’s part of the human experience. Loyalties are breached, promises are broken, and blame is shifted. Friendship is spurned, innocence is abused, and fortunes are stolen. We could go on to include sacrifices unappreciated, responsibility unaccepted, and efforts unrewarded. Then there are the troubles we bring upon ourselves by our own hasty decisions, poor decisions, or indecision. People wound us, and we wound them—a small microcosm of a global reality.
At points in our lives, then, we are tempted to doubt God or even blame Him for our manmade messes. “If God is so powerful and loving,” we ask, “why is there so much suffering in the world?” Is this a fair question? On the surface, it may seem so, but let’s look deeper. On one hand, our inner six-year-old boy wants God to make people be kind and loving. The “Erika Mustermann” in us, however, doesn’t want to be coerced into anything; we want the freedom to think, feel, say, and do as we please. Fortunately, our relational God does not rescind the human liberty with which He endowed us, so like Mrs. Martin, He doesn’t force our decisions, even though we often choose wrongly.
The real question each one of us must honestly consider is, “How does a brokenhearted God respond to such human suffering?” And I think the answer is this: He fills us, His people, with His Spirit, and He sends us to the hurting who await a glimmer of hope. It’s not just theory or philosophy; I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the octogenarian, who still visits inmates in solitary confinement. I’ve seen the woman who tends to the spiritual and physical needs of the trafficked, the gang members, and the penniless in her neighborhood. I’ve seen the retiree who tirelessly visits the sick and dying. You’ve seen it, too.
God cares about the pain and suffering in our world much more than we do, and while we sit around and question His love, power, or existence, for that matter, He is responding to a hurting humanity through those who go and serve them in His name. The question is not a matter of God’s love or His power, but our willingness to act in them. God, grant us the grace to decide rightly.
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
1 The name has been changed to protect the completely unaware.