AFTER church recently I fell into conversation with a woman who mentioned that she lived around the corner with her husband.
I said, ‘Is he here?’ and she said he’d gone to church as a child but stopped when his mother died in his teens.
He said he didn’t believe in a God who could allow such a thing to happen.
Sadly, that is not an unusual story, of people turning away from God because of suffering.
And it’s not just those who have experienced suffering for themselves who feel like this.
At a recent visit to a primary school I was posed a number of very challenging questions from, ‘if there are people on other planets, would they follow another religion?’, to ‘what is heaven like?’
And one of the children asked: ‘If God is all-powerful, why do bad things happen?’
Today is called Good Friday.
Though it seems odd to call it ‘good’ when we remember a man being falsely accused, having a trumped-up travesty of a trial, being flogged and beaten, crowned with thorns and then stripped naked and nailed to a cross to die a slow, agonising death while people spat at him and hurled insults at him.
Christians believe that this man, Jesus, was no ordinary man, and this death was no ordinary death.
We believe that Jesus was God in human form and that through his death God in Jesus has embraced all the pain and wrongdoing and suffering of this earth.
Through this death we are being invited to a new life, because all that we have ever done wrong or will ever do wrong can be forgiven through that astonishing loving action on that blood-stained cross.
Forgiveness and freedom instead of our selfishness and failure.
Yes, you may say, but how does that work? Why would I be interested in a God who is that powerless, who couldn’t climb down from that cross, wave some sort of magic wand and make everything right – without all that suffering?
Well, those are good questions, and there are many more like them, as I discovered at that primary school.
But perhaps, in this broken and pain-racked world of ours, a God who has fully entered into its suffering is of more relevance than one who stands unmoved and above it all.
May God bless you this Good Friday, as we remember Jesus’s generous love.