My wife had a great conversation with a friend who was raised without faith. In the conversation, our friend asked my wife a variation on a question that people have been asking ever since the book of Job: If God is so good and so strong, how come there’s so much wrong in the world?
There are a number of ways to approach this.
In order to give us freewill, God had to give us the ability to choose what is destructive and wrong. Bad choices are a result of having choices and we’re dealing with the consequences.
Another answer poses a question of its own: Why is there so much good in the world? The reality is that there is far more good than bad in the world, and it’s more difficult to account for the imbalanced scale tilting so far toward good than it is to account for bad. There must be a force for good in the universe for things to be tilted so heavily toward the good. But we have a tendency to not notice how much is right in the world and in our lives. If I stub my big toe, I don’t notice how well the rest of my body is doing, because I’m so focused on the pain in my toe.
Those are good answers, but there is another answer that connects with me more deeply. God is doing something about the brokenness of the world. It’s a meeting of brokenness with brokenness.
1. The first thing we see is that God’s response to a broken world is a broken heart. When something breaks in us, something also breaks in God.
The Hebrew word for this is rachamim, translated as mercy, compassion, tenderness. It comes from the Hebrew word rechem, womb. God’s compassion for us is like that of a mother who has carried her child under her heart before bringing her into the world. God has womb-love for us.
When we break, God’s heart breaks.
This is throughout the scriptures. It’s why God keeps saving his people over and over and over again and not giving up. Here’s one example from the end of Exodus 2 —
“… the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel — and God knew.”
Israel groans in slavery and cries out. God hears, remembers, sees, and “knows.” I love the use of the word “know” there. It’s a complete identification. It’s a solidarity that impels God to action. We see that action in many ways but ultimately in Jesus.
2. God’s broken heart leads God to send us a Savior who is himself broken.
The cross is God’s surprising answer to a broken world. Instead of gluing us together, God gets broken himself.
But this isn’t surprising if we’ve noticed God’s broken heart. The cross is an extension of that broken heart. But it’s more than compassion and identification. It’s participation. God knows our brokenness from the inside out because he wept over a dead friend and because he became a dead friend over whom others wept.
Yes, there’s more to the cross than just participation. We’ll get to that. But it’s essential.
When my sister Joy was killed because of a car accident caused by a kid who’d been drinking with his buddies, I was shattered. I cried like never had before. But then came the memorial service. And in the front of the massive church was an equally massive cross. But it was too pretty. Too ornamental. And there was no body on it. I’m not Catholic, but I longed for a crucifix. I wanted to see Jesus hanging in pain, participating in the brokenness I was feeling.
That personal shattering leads to our third point.
3. With that and other pains I have experienced, I became a part of God’s broken people.
God doesn’t have a perfect people. And those looking for Christians to be perfect are continually disappointed. Often they’ll suggest that Christians are being hypocrites. But that’s missing the point. Those who follow the crucified Jesus know ourselves to be the broken people of God. Jesus himself is the one who tells us to take up our crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23).
The purpose of God’s people isn’t to be perfect. It’s to come alongside the rest of the broken world and point that world to its crucified King.
This doesn’t mean that there’s not healing in following Jesus. There is. We are the saved, the rescued, the reconciled, the restored. We experience all kinds of healing, but the healing is not complete in this life, which leads us to our final point.
4. There will be an end to the brokenness. It’s begun in the resurrection of Jesus and in the saving of his people, but it won’t be completed until he returns as King over all. It’s then that “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
This isn’t just pie in the sky by and by. This is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus, the firstborn from the dead. This is the trajectory of all history. This is what God always intended before his creation rebelled against him.
In Genesis 2:1-3, we read that the seventh day of creation was intended to be a day of rest. A day of peace. A day of wholeness. Right there in the creation of all things, God built in his intention. Peace. Togetherness.
As we gather for worship week after week, we keep a Sabbath as a reminder that this is the direction that God is moving all things.
In the meantime, we work and weep and worship, knowing that the pain we all experience in the now is both real and limited. We experience every bit of it and we comfort those who experience it as well while we wait for our crucified King to renew and restore his broken creation.