God’s Empathy, Our Hope: Finding God in Despair (4/4)

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I wish there was shorter way of saying that fourth point. However, this is the matter of application where life is not a one-size fits all:

4. God sometimes removes sadness, other times he doesn’t, but either way he does offer empathy, comfort, and hope.

I know some people that have confronted illness that claimed their lives without being phased. I can only say that these are special gifts. They happened. I visited a person in the hospital one time, who had his legs removed from infection. We were worried that his faith could be shaken. But, we walked into to the room and were greeted by a warm smile. “Oh, pastor, I have been praying for you. How are you doing?” His first thought was on me, not his own condition. Nurses in that ward marveled at the obvious grace beaming from him.

However, I also know faithful saints that struggle with depression. You would not know that they do, often. Many learn to manage it. They learn their bodies well. However, the depression never leaves. They just learn to walk in faith with it. It is like Paul when he realized that when he was weak then he was strong.

So, there are others that feel despair and it does not go away. They carry it the rest of their lives.

I know some people that will feel the burden of mourning a loved one the rest of their lives.

I know people that suffer depression or illness, and it gets them down.

I know people who feel wounded in their faith. Their confidence in God has been shaken, and they don’t know what to do with that. They sincerely wish they had more faith, but they do not know what to do.

There are all sorts of examples where people carry these burdens.

We might ask ourselves is this all there is? Did the despair have the final say?

Like I said, some are given beautiful gives in this life of the “peace that passes understanding.” Yet some don’t have their sadness lifted in this life. I don’t have an answer why some get that gift and others don’t. You hear of how good it goes for some people and you cannot help but feel angry about those that got nothing.

Of course, Jesus cared a lot about those that got nothing, and he tells a story about a rich man that did nothing while a man named Lazarus died on his doorstep. If we don’t use our blessing to extend it to others, our “blessings” will be our downfall.

That still does not fix the problem of why some suffer so bad in this life. I am reminded that one author said that the problem of tragedy and evil was not a intellectual problem to be solve but a mystery to be lived.

Still, we might ask ourselves “Does God care about them? Did God forget them in this life?” The answer, the promise against lies in the cross.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Only a suffering God can save us.” That sounds counter intuitive. A God who suffers sounds like he is trapped in this world. He sounds weak, not all powerful. But we know a lot of powerful people that do not care at all about those suffering.

So, if God chooses to feel our suffering, then God promises to end our sufferings. Why? Love empathizes. If you have ever empathized with another person, you feel their pain. You love them so much that you would then be moved to do something about it. Love feels the pain of another. Love yearns and hopes for pain to end. Love motivates us to change pain into peace. That is why only a suffering God will save us.

If God feels our pain, do you think God will allow that pain to continue forever? No. God does not change, therefore he loves. God loves, therefore he suffers. God suffers, therefore he promises to end suffering. And since God is powerful love, he will.

Jesus died on the miserable cross to be resurrected on the third day, defeating death. That is our hope: the pain and death of this world does not have the final say. Hope does.

And so, if God did not abandon us, we ought not to abandon each other. Seek out those hurting around us. Be with them, near them. Listen to them, and care for them. Be the body of Christ broken for thus world around you. Be the light shining in the darkness.

And then we will see resurrection.

Amen

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