This article was authored by Will Hubbard. Will is the Vice President of Ratio Christi at Clemson University and is a junior majoring in Agricultural Mechanization.
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
-“Jesus of the Scars,” Edward Shillito, WWI English Minister
Only a cursory glance around us is required to discern that all is not well with the world. We all feel that in the depths of time something has gone wrong and the world is the worse for it. There is no doubt that evil exists: the wicked prosper, the innocent suffer, the poor are downtrodden, and before our very eyes the iron fist of cruelty marches onward to new atrocities. And we wonder, “Where is God in all of this? Does He not see? Does He not hear? Can He not stop this madness around us? Or worse yet, will He not?”
It is easy, when viewing a particularly terrible wrong or injustice, to raise our eyes to heaven and, like Job’s wife, shake our fists at the Almighty for His seeming negligence in monitoring human affairs. “Why God?” is probably the most asked question in all of history by those who suffer. It is a just question, when asked with a proper spirit, for if one reads the Old Testament, we find that this question seems to be asked far more frequently and with more vehemence by the believer than the unbeliever. So, why God?
And He answers. It is one of the peculiarities of the Christian God that He never shirks from answering questions that confound the wise. He is a God who is big enough to be questioned, who can handle being accused, doubted, and even rejected of all men. He is no cowardly cosmic force, who, as the Deists are so fond of portraying, retreats into His celestial palace and locks the door against the railings of His Creation without. There are no cover-ups; there is no hiding of evidence. God boldly avows what He has done, and He declares that it is good. Therein lies another hidden vestige of His glory: the courage to face down His creation’s indictments and vindicate Himself.
So what says He in His defense for permitting evil? That He is God, and we are not. That His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. That He is bringing about all things, even the most heinous of crimes against Himself, to His glory and to the general good of the world. That He has given man the choice between good and evil, life and death, and man has chosen evil, so He will allow him to go his way, even if that way leads to death. These are the answers Omniscience declares to us.
“All this may be true,” replies the scoffer, “but even so it is cold comfort. Thou art safe upon Thy Everlasting Throne; Thou knowest not pain, nor fear, nor the suffering that is the lot of man. How easy it must be, dwelling in Paradise, to assert Thy immutable rights, which, though true, gives but poor relief to we who live in this forsaken realm. Thou mayest be the God of man, but Thou art no friend to him.” Yet once again, the Almighty answers, and His answer is: Immanuel, God with us.
No rending of Heaven nor quaking of the earth could compare to the shocking moment when a virgin in a quiet Judean cave gave birth to the Alpha and Omega. God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, descends from His Throne and enters a hostile arena as the Champion of the Universe. All chivalry, all heroism, all the sacredness of sacrifice, flows from this single monumental act, when God Himself became a martyr. He did not “play it safe;” He did not cut His losses, and He still does not. He does not hide behind a curtain, directing His forces in the great battle for the world from the safety of Heaven. No, He goes to the front and alone leads the charge against Sin and Death and all the hosts of Hell.
The brunt of the assault falls on Him, the just wrath which should have been poured out on rebel Man. Not only did He know pain, fear, and suffering, but He knew them more than we ever can. He took up the woe which man could not take up, and He bore it. He was truly “the Man of Sorrows,” and if any man had a right to focus solely upon His own pain, it was the Son of God. Yet He cared not for Himself, but poured into His creatures, bearing their burdens, relieving their distress, and comforting their hearts. Where we suffered, He suffered more; when we wept, He wept more, and when we sorrowed, His very soul was troubled for us.
To the skeptic who doubts His goodness, to the mourner who questions His love, to the myriads who accuse Him of negligence and coldness, we point to Immanuel. The One who did not deserve to be wounded bore the greatest of Man’s wounds. The blood of the Everlasting flows next to that of men, His tears with theirs. He has earned the right to answer His opponents, to, in the words of Chesterton, fling the lie of Satan back into the face of that Blasphemer, and to say to the world which curses Him, “I too have suffered.” Before the world which rails against God, we point to the Son of Man, who stands before these accusers, saying, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”