Something's Not Right

In December of 2009, my youngest brother was diagnosed with cancer. Among the many thoughts careening through my mind, one that often floated to the surface was simply, “this isn’t right.” He was young, only 22. He was vibrant, active and good. He loved nature, and would frequently take inner city kids on camping trips out into the Georgia wilderness. He loved people, loved his family and loved God. And a little over a year later, after excruciating treatment, he died. I knew something was not right, knew something was in fact desperately wrong.

In the months and years as I have confronted this deep sense of wrongness, I found that scripture too rings with these same observations and questions. Prophets and psalmists alike decry the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering and oppression of the righteous. God’s own people cry out in anguish, wondering how it can be that the pagans rise in wealth and power while they - the faithful few - are trampled under foot. They are hard questions, and they always have been. They resisted neat and simple answers every bit as much then as my own do now.

It is therefore not surprising that scripture does not offer us simple answers either, and those who have come in search of them have often left disappointed. Perhaps that is in part because we cannot understand. What words could wash away the pain of a broken marriage or the loss of a loved one? What explanation was going to make me OK with my brother’s death? What scripture offers is not an answer or an explanation, but a person, an invitation to know and trust in God, who does understand and who will one day put all things right.

And this too might seem trite, like “mere words,” were it not for the fact that God has already acted decisively in Christ. At the center to every Christian response to the problem of evil is not a doctrine, but the cross. Here, now and always, is the proof that God sees and understands, far better than we ever could, the damage caused by sin and evil. Here was God, in the flesh, so grieved by that damage that he was willing to lay down his own life to put an end to it.

In Jesus, I found a grief over my brother’s tragic death that matched my own, and then surpassed it. A grief over all suffering and sin that drove him to drastic and decisive action. I still do not understand why my brother developed cancer, why he had to suffer through chemotherapy, why his life had to be cut so short. What I have found is trust in the wisdom of God. I don’t have answers, but because of the cross I have confidence that God will one day put all things, including this, right.