By Mark Rodgers

Theodicy.   The mystery of suffering and the belief in a loving, all-powerful God.

We have all been faced with images of deep suffering recently, whether from an elementary school or a marathon.

A dear friend, David Kuo, just yielded to his 10-year struggle with brain cancer.  A gifted writer, David was also a fellow “compassionate conservative” working in the world but never quite comfortable with it.  He understood the power of story, and launched the innovative web experiment Culture11.  He hadn’t found what he was looking for, but he has now.  (Click the image for an interview with David Kuo)

Theodicy.  The mystery of suffering.

I recently reread Silence, the modern classic by one of Japan’s greatest contemporary writers, Shusaku Endo.  After initially taking root, Christianity was expelled along with its Western patrons in the early 17th century.  The Japanese who had converted were forced to apostate or be executed.  In the novel, two Jesuits steal into the country to administer the sacraments.  They encounter a persecuted Church … and a seemingly silent God.

As Job found out, there is no easy answer to the reality of suffering.  In Night, Elie Wiesel makes the point that questioning is the key:

“Why do you pray?” he asked me, after a moment.

Why did I pray? A strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?

“I don’t know why,” I said, even more disturbed and ill at ease. “I don’t know why.” 

After that day I saw him often. He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer. “Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him,” he was fond of repeating. “That is the true dialogue. Man questions God and God answers. But we don’t understand His answers. We can’t understand them. Because they come from the depths of the soul, and they stay there until death. You will find the true answers, Eliezer, only within yourself!”

“And why do you pray, Moshe?” I asked him. “I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.”

 

One of the artists that I have known for years, Will Gray, has just entered hospice.  (Will and his wife Angie discuss the illness and their faith)

I will never forget his performance at a retreat a few years ago, in which he rapped with an eclectic punk jazz band.   But more than a rapper, he was an amazing vocalist who moved to LA to be produced by T Bone Burnett.  (Read more of Will’s story)

Full of promise, he is also a filmmaker.  His documentary on the music industry, Broke, is as much personal journal as it is a commentary on the current state of the system.  (Click the image to visit the broke website)

Theodicy.  The mystery.

It can’t be resolved with the mind, with reason; it has to be explored with the soul, with the moral imagination.  Martin Scorsese’s next film is Silence, based on the book and rumored to star Daniel Day Lewis.   It will be a rare moment for each of us to explore the mystery.  To ask questions, alone and together.

Theodicy.

We may not realize it in the midst of the pain of suffering, but there is Someone with us throughout as we ask.  Endo ends the Silence of his book with a word from Jesus:

“I was not silent.  I suffered beside you.”

Let’s pray that they we have the strength to ask the right questions.