Faithlife Sermons

God of suffering

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At such times, it is natural to ask, as I imagine many of you have done so:
'Where was God when we needed him?' Of course this is a fundamental question
that all religions must address, and it has no easy answers. The Christian
answer is Cross-shaped. It replies: 'God is there in our good times as well
as in our bad. He is there at our beginning and our end. He is there with
that beggar, shivering at the foot of the World Trade Centre; he is there
with that girl boarding a plane unwittingly in Boston; he is there with that
perspiring man rushing for a 9.00 o'clock appointment on the 99th floor. He
is there also in the sufferings of the innocent and destitute caught up in a
conflict in Afghanistan, which they never started, and which they can't
resolve.' As Christians, we begin to find an answer in the crucified and
risen Christ. In him we meet the God who has entered fully into the
suffering, sin and evil of the world, and yet is not finally overcome by
them.

But even so, general answers can only take us so far. Other responses have
to come out of the fabric of individual human lives. I am reminded of a dear
friend who lost his three children in separate accidents, each dying under
the age of 30. One day I asked him: 'Have you and your wife never asked of
God "why?"'. I got a remarkable reply from a truly remarkable friend: 'Of
course I have asked God "why?"' he said gently, 'but I soon discovered that
is not the right question. The proper question is "How?" - "how may I use my
suffering to help others and to point the way to God's love?"'

That was an extraordinary response. It is a response that may seem beyond us
when our grief remains fresh and raw. I understand that. But I also believe
that part of coming to terms with the suffering of September 11 involves
seeking to bring good out of evil. We must find a better way, a better
future for our wonderful but broken world. Surely, the men and women we
remember here today would want that.

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