Not how it’s supposed to be

Simon Smart on the recent earthquake in Türkiye and Syria, the problem of suffering, and the vision of hope found in the Bible.

“This kind of thing makes me wonder if there really is a God.”

I heard that sentence in my house this week as a few of us discussed the earthquake that has rocked Türkiye and Syria. So far, the death toll is over 21,000—people crushed to death in their homes as they cooked or slept or played games or watched Netflix. The scale of loss and suffering is hard to take in.

But if you allow yourself a moment to contemplate the horror of it all, questions of cosmic cruelty or indifference inevitably emerge. Where is God in all of this? Scenes of miraculous rescues from the rubble are heart-warming. Are they enough?

This kind of random suffering remains one of the most pressing challenges to faith in a good God.

Interestingly though, the Biblical story does not shy away from suffering. It encompasses all of life’s sorrows and tragedies and names suffering as wrong, as not how things are supposed to be.

It is also a vision of the world that, despite the darkness, holds on to hope: that God has not abandoned us.

Early in Luke’s gospel we hear a song celebrating the birth of John the Baptist signifying the dawn of a new era. God is on the move:
“ … because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

For many people that light has offered, not exhaustive answers to their deepest questions, but even in the not-knowing, an enticing possibility that accompanies them on their darkest journeys, such that they don’t give way to despair.

Image credit to @mooeeiiin.