Today I’d like to suggest that human suffering is an argument against an imaginary God. It’s certainly not an argument against the God of the incarnation.
I’ll use the Holy Family to illustrate my point.
Firstly, a preliminary point. God doesn’t force us to believe.
Yet, in the Incarnation, in God becoming a human child God is really pushing us to believe.
If God did anything more he’d tip the scales into forcing belief.
Think for a moment about what would convince you to believe? What would clinch the God argument for you?
If that happened would you still be free? I doubt it. God would be doing the work, eroding your freedom.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest obstacles to belief is suffering, particularly human suffering.
Yet the Incarnation (the Holy Family) itself is riddled through with human suffering. Doesn’t that speak loudly?
We must surely accept that such a significant detail is instructive. God is saying something to us.
From the moment Mary conceived, the Incarnation is a series of highs and lows, joys and sorrows, consolation and desolation.
From the high of hearing and seeing an Angel announce her pregnancy to the low of Joseph deciding to leave her, from the high of God’s intervention through a dream convincing Joseph to stay, to the low of finding no room at the Inn, only a stable after an exhausting journey on the back of a donkey!
This is God! At what point did Mary wonder?
From the joy of the birth on Christmas night – the wonder of it – the arrival of the shepherds, nothing less than a star pointing out the child Jesus (a cosmic event) to the rapid descent into terror as Mary and Joseph flee with their infant into Egypt to avoid Herod’s soldiers who were slaughtering every new born male child. Put yourself in Mary’s shoes, Joseph’s shoes.
‘You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart’
Ultimately the woman who is rightly considered the most blessed of all women rose with her Son to the heights of acclamation as He performed miracle after miracle, but also plunged with him to the ridicule, the condemnation and the suffering of his passion and death.
Talk about a roller coaster!
This is a real woman and a real family.
What are they teaching us?
Faith in the God of the incarnation (as opposed to an imaginary God) is not destroyed by human suffering but overcomes it, transcends it, finally and definitively in the resurrection. Faith is not avoidance but the power to embrace and overcome.
How do we obtain faith like that? That kind of faith is a gift of God, infused supernaturally through grace.
It is what passes between God and an individual soul in hidden hours of prayer while the rest of us are busy, worrying and fretting about so many things. Mostly about trying to make a life!