“I don’t believe in God”, my neighbour said, following the tragic death of her son. When asked to describe the God she had rejected, she described a cruel and uncaring being who either couldn’t or wouldn’t prevent the terrible events which had taken her son from her.
My friend, who had come to offer her support said he didn’t believe in a God like that either. But he went on to tell her about the kind, caring and compassionate God he did believe in. This God he said, wept with her and stood by her in her pain.
Whether she could hear and accept that reality at the time, I don’t know. Pain can block our ability to hear even the kindest voices. This is especially so when we have suffered a great loss.
Jesus came to not only speak about but also to embody God’s love. Sometimes this involved healing the sick and raising the dead. At other times it meant sharing in the sorrow of his friends.
As a hospital chaplain I often experienced the powerlessness of having no answers for patients and relatives. It would have been easier to ignore the phone call or avoid the moment. But over time, I came to realise the power of helplessness which comes from standing alongside others in their pain and distress.
At one point in anger and frustration I railed against God saying, “What would you know? You healed everyone and broke up every funeral you attended.” But then I was reminded that Jesus’ own cousin John the Baptist was beheaded and there was no miracle. In response, Jesus withdrew in grief to a lonely place.
I was thankful for this reminder of his humanity. He identifies with my pain and helplessness. He stands with me in the darkest places reminding me that God is good all the time.
When I feel it and when I don’t, Jesus is present in life’s most challenging moments. His presence demonstrates that God is good all the time.