Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Mystery of Suffering

Hugh Hewitt recently launched a fascinating new Internet project, OneTrueGodBlog. It's a "GodBlog" that poses eternal mysteries to ponder, with theological experts addressing the topics presented. The most recent topic is "Suffering" and how Holy Scripture applies to both those directly affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes and those who are far from the storm's harm.

The story of Noah and the deluge in Genesis is similar in its depiction of the destruction caused by the great flood. But the Book of Job, Psalm 13, 88, and 130, and Christ's Passion are among the many scriptural passages relating directly to the suffering of our neighbors who have been caught in the fury of the storms. Why? Because fear, grief, pain, and sorrow over loss are universal human emotions. Universal, too, is the feeling of being forsaken by God, being left alone in suffering. Pslams 13 and 88 are especially eloquent on this point:

How long, LORD? Wilt thou forget me forever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
O LORD, why dost thou cast me off? Why dost thou hide thy face from me?

Who among us has not, at some low point, felt dismissed and forgotten by God? If I were fleeing Katrina or Rita, leaving the wreckage of my life behind, I fear I would surely feel that way.

I have never suffered on such a dramatic, tangible level. If I did, I can not say with any certainty that I would be strong enough to be graceful under such crushing physical loss. My sympathy and concern for the hurricane victims leads me to want to help them. And that brings me back to the second part of Hugh Hewitt's question: What portions of Scripture are most relevant to those who have been watching, but for whom the suffering is far removed, and why?

I think the most relevant part of Scripture is found in Luke's Gospel, Chapter 10, v. 29-37. In these verses, we find the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan was traveling his own journey, minding his own business, and came upon the suffering victim. Although others had passed by with indifference, the Samaritan could not in good conscience ignore the victim. He tended to the man's injuries, brought him to shelter, and paid for his care.

But the most relevant part of this beautiful parable, in view of the successive hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, is that the Good Samaritan came back to be sure he had given enough to the innkeeper to pay for the injured man's care. The Good Samaritan teaches us how to treat one another in time of urgent need. We may not be able to explain the mystery of human suffering, but the Good Samaritan shows us how to be a force for good in the face of suffering, how to help make things right again. If we take it seriously, as a model for our own actions, this simple story is our roadmap to a better world.

Have I given enough to help those suffering from the two hurricanes? No. There's no way I could say yes, I've given enough. Not while I'm safe, dry, well-fed, and under my own secure roof. So here again is the link to Instapundit's list of charities . And, appropriately enough, here is the link to Samaritan's Purse (HT:HH).

After the second punch from Hurricane Rita, it's time for us to "come back" and refigure the tab, like any good neighbor would do. It's time for us to "Go and do likewise" (Lk 10:37).