I recently read Lament for a Son by Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff. The book basically outlines the emotional turmoil he experiences following his son’s death. It is barely 100 pages but one of the best books I have ever read. Wolterstorff writes that “instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.” I find this profoundly comforting and beautiful. I have read plenty of Christian attempts of explaining the problem of theodicy but they don’t ever satisfy. Sure they do explain some things but I can always find something they don’t account for.
Once every month or two I go through a period of extreme confusion and despair that lasts a few days, where I can barely function. I can barely study or read if I can at all. I cannot bring myself to workout. I can barely mutter out prayers. All I can do is lay in bed and listen to music and sometimes even music sounds bad. Even Switchfoot and Lecrae sound bad. I feel emotionless and numb. Everything seems meaningless and I wish I was never born. I experience borderline blasphemous thoughts and doubt whether I am even a Christian at all. I have no answers. Is it just a lack of faith? I don’t know, but I know for a fact I don’t chose to feel this way and would do almost anything to feel better.
Sure I know there is suffering due to sin and that God works all things together for the good of those who are in Christ, but sometimes I feel like these answers are thrown around in a way that is unhelpful and downplay the reality of pain. Yes I need to hear the gospel when I am suffering but this does not minimize the fact that I need to be allowed to hurt. There must be room for questions and confusion and tears (though when I am in a period of despair I don’t usually have the emotional capacity to even cry.). There must be room for doubt and questioning and confusion. These things are not good in and of themselves but if we don’t allow room for them and acknowledge them they will fester in the dark as opposed to being brought into the light where people can wrestle with them together.
We do not need answers when we suffer we need people. I do not need an explanation as to why I am probe to crippling fear and doubt, I need someone who is willing to share it. We do not have a God who systematically explains our suffering but rather a God who shares in our suffering. We see that God refuses to answer all of Job’s questions, but that God gives up everything and experiences death on the cross for helpless sinners. If we are to show Christ to each other we must not simply provide answers, we must provide ourselves. There is a place for philosophy, but this must be secondary to love. I love what Randy Newman says: “You won’t get very far responding to feelings with evidence. It’s amazing how far you get with empathy.”