Twice yesterday, tears came unbidden. Once when I was listening to my friend Kenneth Tanner proclaim, with clear and stunning conviction, how God is always and in every way the enemy of death, evil, and injustice. It’s remarkable how our theologizing and sermons, our bumbled attempts at comfort, our belabored equivocations in the face of dehumanizing evil, coax us into a gloomy stupor and blunt our unfiltered rage against every violent horror. Our many words (so many) mute the shadow-shattering pronouncement: Jesus is a friend to every human and every creature, but Jesus is a dread enemy to death and evil. I couldn’t stop the tears.
And then last night in the kitchen with Miska, as the yellow curry chicken simmered on the stove, we reflected on a story of devastating tragedy, the sort that would wreck any parent. The conversation opened inside me a larger reckoning with the agonizing pain so many of us carry, that terror and disillusionment that always lurks, just at the edge, with its crushing weight. But into this abyss, the good news arrives. God is never far from our suffering, never distant from our despair. If the Cross tells us anything, it’s that amid great suffering — this is where Jesus’ love glimmers most radiant. In Jesus, God descends into the very center of every human horror. My eyes turned moist. God would rather die than leave us alone.
Buechner told us we should pay attention to our tears, especially our unexpected tears, because “more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.”
My tears tell me that I’ve come from God and that my end is in God. And my tears tell me, I believe, that this is true for you too, true for all of us. Among the many questions that haunt us, I believe this one cuts as close to the bone as any: Is God truly, deeply, profoundly good and love — and will God be this goodness and love for us always?
Yes. No matter the anguish that crushes you. No matter the tsunamis that overwhelm you. No matter the loneliness that presses upon you. No matter how far you run. In Jesus, God stands with you, inside your dismay, closer than your breath, opposing all that is evil without us and within us, whispering to us the truth of God’s powerful, undying love. Always. To the end of the age. Amen.