Saturday, September 10, 2011

My 9/11 Memorial: Christianity Offers Authentic Hope In The Face Of Suffering

Terror's Aftermath
Today, we will be remembering one of the great tragedies in the history of our nation.  Ten years ago, a senseless act of violence turned tools of travel into tools of terror.  Many people died.  Some instantly, some slowly and in much pain.

Like many, I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the first plane crashing into the WTC.  Even more vividly, I can recall watching the second jet aim at the second tower. I had hoped, watching the 2D television screen, the plane would pass behind the building, that it would miss.  Instead, pieces of ceramic, metal, and plastic shot out of the other side of the building intertwined in flames.  When I remembered to breathe, I realized I had not felt so much pain in my relatively young, sheltered life.  I was across the continent, but I mourned with all who experienced this act of terror.

Over the next few weeks, I tried to make sense of what I had witnessed.  The world hadn't really changed much.  There were always people who wanted to hurt others, but the reality of evil was much more tangible, more pungent even.  Before, I had been able to ignore evil when it occurred to others, but this had hit home.  This showed me the reality of pain and suffering all over the world.

I was struck by how futile our efforts at comfort can be.  When tragedy strikes, people often ask bigger questions than they have before.  But who, if anyone, has the answers to give authentic hope?

Failed Answers
Mary Baker Eddy believed
evil was an illusion.
Every worldview must have an answer to pain and suffering.  Any worldview that ignores the true human need to make sense of the world of evil we live in rings hollow and disingenuous.  Unfortunately, some worldviews seem to pretend there is no such evil, but only how we react to situations (Atheism).  Other worldviews may say that evil is just as powerful as good, or even, just another side of the same coin (Pantheism).  In the specific instance of 9/11, many followers (though not all) of Islam would contend the falling of the towers was actually a good, and not in fact an evil act.
William Provine believes there
is no God, and thus, no ethics
(or ways to measure good and evil).

All of these answers are found lacking in the face of the horrors of suffering.  As people jumped from the burning buildings, falling to their death, not a bone in my body did not react in shock at the evil of it all.  Later as the buildings collapsed, trapping thousands in a dusty, fiery grave, it was clear evil was and is real.

A Better Answer
Christianity's answer to suffering and evil does not insult our intelligence or emotions.  It does not pretend we are too dumb to understand the reality of evil, nor does it pretend evil does not exist and sweep it under the rug.  Christianity knows that evil is a very real problem.  Though evil and suffering are real, Christianity contends justice and good will triumph in the end.  Christians have an authentic hope in seeing the end of evil and suffering.

The hope one has is only as good as the object in which the hope is placed.  Psalm 146:5-6 sums up the source of hope for the Christian.  Our hope is in the God of the universe, the Creator.  We believe God will keep his promises regarding the future.

But what has God actually promised to do about evil and suffering?  Although there are many passages which may give a Christian hope, two passages stand out to me.  The first passage is Revelation 21:3-5.  This passage promises that God will make his living place with man.  As he dwells with his people, he will "wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."  God is making things new again, and he promises "these words are trustworthy and true."  This passage resonates with anyone who longs for the end of unnecessary pain.  We know there is something wrong with this world.  All is not as it should be.  But the Christian is waiting, yearning, longing for the day in which all things will again be new, and the glory of God will be revealed in its fullest nature.

Similarly, Romans 8:18-25,  is another passage a Christian looks to for hope..  This passage is one of the most memorable of all of Paul's writings.  He contends that present suffering is not even worth comparing to the future glory of God's people. In fact, all of creation is waiting for the unveiling of his children in their final form.  God has promised that we will see justice, glory, and goodness.  This outcome is so assured, so great, it isn't worth even considering the sufferings of this present age against it.  This is a grand promise to give a great hope.

Reasons for Hope
I know many who read this will not be satisfied with the explanation of hope for the Christian.  They may say, "If Christianity was true, these passages would give me hope, but I am not sure Christianity is true."  The  Christian should not be found speechless in cases like this.  1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready to give reasons for our hope to anyone who asks.  As such, here are some reasons why I believe in God. And here is a post on the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, showing the truth of Christianity in particular.  Many other people have even better posts about the reality of Christianity.

However, the most compelling reason for me personally has been my transformation through Christ.  I grew up in a Christian home, and accepted the Messiah at an early age.  He is my Lord and Savior, and He has consistently worked upon my heart a desire to serve Him better and more fully.  While many have not tried or explored Christianity openly and decide it is false, I have tried it, and found it true.

So, I will yearn for Jesus to make all things new, I will groan for the future glory.  I know my redeemer lives, and hope for the day when there will be no more pain, suffering, tears or 9/11s.  I will remember 9/11/01, and all other pain and suffering, with a longing for the promises beyond.

This post is part of a coordinated effort on the part of Christian apologist bloggers.  I hope my post has been helpful, but for more perspectives, check out the following:


Scott said...

Good stuff Gabriel!

Madeleine said...

Praise God for the hope he gives us in the face of tragedies caused by humans like 9/11.