The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 6:5-6
Last year I was interviewed for a placement for a Clinical Pastoral Education (C.P.E.) course. Across from me sat two people who intimidated me with their presence, but more so with their questions. They asked me to share about my life. I did. When I got to the part about the loss of my son, and my wife’s and my youngest son’s cancer, I knew I had an opportunity to share how despite it all God has been so good to us. I even told of specific ways the hardships opened the door for the gospel. On the canvas I painted a beautiful picture of dark clouds, each lined with silver linings of the redemptive ways God took the hard stuff and made something good out of it. Yes, God takes the ashes and turns them into beauty. I have always felt good, and right, when telling my story, to make sure I end it with hope. Yes, it’s been hard, but…God is still on the throne. God is good. He is kind. See, here is the proof. I ended my story. Like an artist filling in the last dark spots with subtle lighted colors, I put my brush down and stood back to admire the canvas. I assumed they would too. I was wrong.
One of them looked at me sternly and said, “Tell us something that has not turned out right in your life.” I swallowed hard. I thought even harder. I felt exposed and embarrassed. Their question popped my bubble and revealed an unhealthy tendency to have to always explain away tragedy. What was their point? There will be days when I will have to stand at the bedside of someone dying with no explanation of why it is good. Sometimes the best thing to say is, “This really stinks. It’s ugly. Hard. Tragic.” Sometimes it is best to say it and then sit down and shut up.
Last week a Facebook post shared how hundreds were coming to Jesus in places where ISIS was ravaging and pillaging and raping. The article frustrated me and made me wish Mark Zuckerberg had given us an, “I don’t like that” option. I would have been the first to select it. (*) Why do we need to explain away evil? Does it really help to tell a grieving mother her son is in a better place, and no longer suffering? Do you not identify better with the heaviness of her heart when you simply say, “I hate what has happened to you.”
I discovered something from my interview for the CPE course. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. Letting the tragedy remain tragic allows us to grieve with God over sin and its impact on the human life and experience. God did not explain away evil. He entered it and drowned himself in it. He became sin for us so that we can become the righteousness of God. He walked into the horror and grieved, and wept and agonized with us. Our silver lining is the cross of Jesus where God faced evil for what it is. Our hope is not that evil has something good in it that we can point to for consolation. Our hope is knowing that God hated evil so much that he came here to do something about it. Our hope is for the end of ISIS, but in the meantime it is perfectly right to anguish over their existence and what they are doing to God’s beautiful creation, those made in his image.
This week, try not to explain away what sin has so tragically done around you. Rather, grieve over it. I think you will find yourself sharing something deep of God’s heart.
(*) My blogs can sometimes be overstated to make a point. Of course, I celebrate when people come to Jesus even when evil exists around them. That is what victory in the cross of Jesus is all about. I want to make sure that point is not misunderstood.
This makes sense. It reminds me of the saying, “There is healing in the hearing.” Sometimes the greatest need we have is to share our painful stories with someone who will just listen and we experience healing in our telling of it and their loving listening.
Mitch- thank you for continuing to give people permission to grieve the things that society would rather sweep under the carpet. You acknowledge tragedy without letting it control you. You are truly an inspiration!
This really speaks to me, Mitch. Thank you