Ramble for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch pew sheet 26 September 2021
Harold Kushner is a Jewish rabbi who wrote When Bad Things Happen To Good People (Anchor paperback 2004). His 3yo son had been diagnosed with a degenerative disease which meant that he wouldn’t live beyond his early teens. It’s a go-to book for hospital chaplains, for anyone really who asks themselves why do bad things happen to good people? Which is all of us, I guess, asking that question.
Kushner no more comes up with an answer which settles the question than anyone else has in the history of thought. But his book is still worth reading. He wrote from a Jewish perspective. Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (Ch 53) is the archetype of a blameless person suffering undeservedly. We interpret the chapter to allude to Christ, God’s sinless Son. The Jewish Wisdom story of Job shows us another archetype of undeserved suffering. Neither of these accounts gives us that elusive answer to the question, I’m afraid, but they do show us a God who suffers with us and who weeps with us. God’s pain, like ours, isn’t eased on the spot. Rather each passage, Isaiah 53 and the story of Job, point to the certainty of our eventual vindication and transformation into a glorious, unravaged, body like Christ’s.
Job says “I know that my Redeemer lives and that He shall stand on the earth on the last day, and I shall see him for myself”.
St Paul says that participation in Christ’s sufferings is followed by “the power of His resurrection”. (Philippians 3:10)
No easy answer to the question in the meantime. Christ’s ministry to us in suffering is to be alongside us, weeping with us, showing us his own wounds for us. That’s the best we can do, too. Not try to come up with glib, trite explanations for the inexplicable, but be alongside and weep with our sisters and brothers who suffer. And pray with St John on the Isle of Patmos - “Come, Lord Jesus”.