Tears, Evil, and the Very Near God

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, ready to pour out 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 closest to the bone: 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.

6 Replies to “Tears, Evil, and the Very Near God”

  1. Thank you, Winn, for these words today! You have always spoken to me at the right times, and I was thankful to read your thoughts once again about such an important truth. Bless you!

  2. dear winn, sorry i only have one hand to write with. i accidently stab the palm of my left hand with a sharp paring knife a month ago. God has a reason for this. they have told me to go to a hand surgeon to see what he can do. Your article today is very special to me. When istarted my nursing at san clemente hosp my supervisor was a male nurse and a doctor of nursing from England, He was not a Christian. I prayed for him for years and lead him to the Lord Jesus. We became very close friends. H e moved to Henderson, Nevada. Yesterday morn 2 30 He went to be with JESUS. PTLA. I talked with his wife last eve and shared with her that we need to let the tears flow and that the LORD will be with us 24/7. What a precious SAVIOUR we are blessed with. God bless you Winn and your family. Lillian

  3. Thank you Winn for these beautiful words and the reminder that God is always closer than our own breath. Our oldest adult child has run from Jesus and us. We pray for his return to Jesus most of all but also if God wills to us too. Jesus has never left him. These words you wrote speak to me today.

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