If God is good, why do we experience pain? For Christians, this is one of the oldest and thorniest questions in the book.
Our community at Mosaic faced this question during a tough moment in 2016 following a shooting in our neighborhood. Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share some of the things we learned and reflected on during that time. These continue to influence our faith as heartbreaking events, like the recent shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue, Thousand Oaks, CA, and Louisville, KY, occur.
I’d like to start with the truth that Jesus sees our pain.
When we think of Jesus in the United States, many of us imagine a white man who speaks English with a perfect accent. That’s partly because that’s how Jesus is frequently portrayed in visual art and media.
But that’s not who Jesus was.
In the Bible, the book of Isaiah describes Jesus like this:
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
A man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
He was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
-Isaiah 53:3 NIV
Jesus was a Palestinian Jew, living under European occupation. He was not a Roman citizen. He did not have diplomatic immunity. Jesus was vulnerable, as we see in his arrest and execution by Roman authorities. He himself experienced oppression and pain.
We also know that Jesus noticed other people’s pain.
The Bible tells the story of a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. In her culture, that made her unclean, and unable to be around other people. Isolated and desperate, she spends all of the money she has on doctors, but her condition only gets worse.
When this woman hears that Jesus is coming, she says to herself “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed” (Mark 5:28). She sneaks through the crown, and brushes his cloak. Immediately she is healed, but Jesus stops and turns.
“Who touched my clothes?” he asks. The disciples find the question ridiculous. They’re in the middle of a crowd. Everyone is touching Jesus!
But Jesus asks again. “Who touched me?”
The woman is afraid, but she comes forward and tells her story. Jesus listens. When she is done, he says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Jesus knows that the physical healing is not enough. She needs to be restored relationally and socially. She needs to be seen.
Jesus sees us, too. Like the woman in the story, we can’t simply slip past unnoticed into the crowd. As we encounter pain in our world and in our own communities and lives, that is a truth that is worth reflecting on.
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