Approaching a large man working a booth at a national religious conference some years ago, I asked him about his organization’s work.
His booming voice thundered, “Apologetics!”
Without so much as a "How do you do?" or even mentioning his name, he glared down at me from his imposing height. As my curiosity overrode my good sense, I politely asked, “What would you say to someone who suffers?”
Grinding out the words from his heavily bearded jaw, he replied in a voice so husky it could pull a dog sled, “I’d say that God’s sovereign!'”
While I stand at six feet tall, this man had me by at least five inches and fifty pounds. Looking up into his eyes, I calmly commented, “I’m sure that would have been very comforting to Uriah’s parents.”
Glowering at me under thick eyebrows for several moments, his mouth snapped shut and he stomped away.
Perhaps my bravado towards this man was reinforced by my recently earned black belt and a reasonable belief I could outrun this giant of a man. Yet, an altercation was never on my mind. His booth just happened to be next on my path through the exhibit hall.
Bombastic dogma holds little appeal for me. During my thirty-five years as a caregiver for my wife with severe disabilities, I can recall a lengthy list of crushing comments couched in religion and delivered with misplaced authority:
“If you have enough faith…”
“God doesn’t put more on you than you can…”
Sadly, those and similar comments, seem to lead to greater speculation about how God views suffering, pain, loss, and injustice.
In a recent conversation with someone discussing the political turmoil in our country, the remark was made, “God doesn’t like injustice and won’t stand for it.” One of many Scriptures backing up that statement is:
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers (Proverbs 21:15).
While Scripture assures us that evildoers will experience the terror of justice, the statement uncomfortably implies the occurrence of injustice. Furthermore, there remains an unspecified timeframe regarding the duration of injustice…before justice is meted out.
The unsettling reality is that virtually the entirety of Scripture (and history) reveals horrific injustices — some lasting for generations.
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan (Proverbs 29:2).
Today, people groan — individuals, families, communities, and even the nation.
Several years ago, a close pastor friend of mine called me after burying his dog. He shared that while digging the hole, he wept and angrily reflected on how much he hated death. In his nearly forty years of ministry, he has presided over countless funerals. I played the piano for many of those. We discussed those services, and how much we both hate death.
Then he said something that’s never left me.
“Do you know who hates death more?”
“God hates death,” he stated quietly.
After a long pause, he added, "He hates it so much that he took it upon Himself to provide a way to conquer death once and for all.”
Injustice runs rampant in this world. Watching the evening broadcasts of angry talking heads, we often feel agitated rather than educated, and we groan while observing people in authority reveling in injustice.
I hate injustice.
Do you know who hates injustice more?
God hates injustice so much that He became flesh and traveled to the cross to take upon Himself the full penalty for injustice. He did that to spare us from what the evildoers will face with terror.
What can be said to people who suffer — and groan? The apologetics man at the convention offered blunt force truth. He wasn’t wrong — God is indeed sovereign. In my experience, however, I’ve discovered that truth without compassion often presents as callous and judgmental.
When we see ourselves, loved ones, neighbors, and even our nation groaning under injustice, some may thunder out, “God’s sovereign!”
In those moments, however, may we instead state with deep conviction (and often through tears) that there is One who groans about injustice and suffering on our behalf…and He will one day make all things new.
Mr. Beaver said, “Aslan is a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
– C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.