“Why is there so much suffering in the world?”
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“Why did my child die?”
“If you commit suicide, do you go to hell?”
“Why is there only one way to God?”
“Why doesn’t God speak?”
If you’ve been in the church long enough, you’ve probably heard most of these questions. Or, if you’re like me, you’ve probably asked some of these questions. The church is a pro at coming up with answers for them:
There is suffering because of the fallen nature of man.
Bad things happen to good people because God is testing them.
Your child died because it was her/his time. God has a lesson in all of this.
Suicide is outside of God’s will.
There is only one way to God because Jesus said so.
God doesn’t speak because we aren’t listening.
Great answers. Right? Anytime I am asked one of these questions, I freeze up. Part of me wants to give the typical cliché answer. But a huge part of me doesn’t. A huge part of me wants to simply say, “I don’t understand.” Most of today’s evangelical pastors have been taught to empathize with people. While empathizing, I fear that we seek a quick fix for ourselves. Giving an empty answer, such as the ones above, leaves us, as evangelical pastors, feeling comforted. We get severely discomforted if we begin to believe that we truly don’t understand.
In “Pub Theology,” author Bryan Berghoef writes, “As Christians, it seems we have an innate need to control the flow of information to ensure desired outcomes.” 2 things about this quote. 1) Buy this book. Click here. You won’t regret it. 2) How true is this? How many times have you come up with an answer so that you can have the desired outcomes?
We seek to comfort so that someone will not leave God.
We shift what could be assumed as God being unjust to God working out His plan.
We say that we aren’t listening so that people will believe that God is still speaking today.
Within the world of Christianity, we take comfort in bad answers and tremble at the terrifying possible truth. I believe that if we sit back and think about our cliché answers, we would be extremely dissatisfied. We would begin to see how our answers were not really comforting, nor were they really answers. Instead, they were empty phrases, muttered by the empathizer to help him/her feel better.
If we begin to admit that we don’t understand, people will leave the faith. Because faith is about having all the right answers. Faith is about knowing the right words to say at any given moment. Faith is about remaining confident. Faith is about hiding your doubts. Right?
I believe that we are scared. Humanity seeks answers but none of the answers are satisfying. In our effort to come up with answers, I believe we have given God attributes that don’t describe Him. We try to describe the intangible with tangible terms. In doing so, we have done an injustice not only to God, but to the world.
So the next time someone comes up with a hard question, instead of giving the cliché answer, maybe it would be better to say, “I just don’t understand anymore. Perhaps I never will. But it is better having someone who doesn’t understand with you than to be by yourself.” I think that is what faith is: being together and not understanding.