World Without Heroes: Some
Thoughts About the Intended Consequences of Pain
if you called for help and no one came.
further that no one even knew what you meant when
you asked for help, that when you said the word
compassion all you got was a blank stare or when
you said justice people just scratched their heads
problem of suffering has plagued theologians (both
the armchair variety as well as the professional
kind) and braced cynics for millennia. How can we
look at the world in which we live and conclude
that God is either all-powerful or all-loving?
Either He loves us but is powerless to end our
suffering, or He is able to end suffering on earth
but just doesn't care enough to want to make the
effort. Perhaps He is neither all-loving nor
all-powerful. Perhaps, some wonder when they watch
the evening news, He isn't there at all.
topic has been extensively written about, and
endlessly debated. I think for many newly-minted
college atheists its definitely a hot seller.
There are many good ideas about the problem of
evil, and how a good God could allow suffering
(most of those ideas having to do with the
inevitable consequences of mans free will). Even
so, I'm fairly certain I cant end the debate here.
But I do want to add a twist, and that's this:
Without evil in general and suffering in
particular, most of the qualities that we love in
people, many of the things we think of as
character would be non-existent.
occurred to me awhile ago as I thought about what
had happened on Sept 11th that just as without sin
there would also be no forgiveness, and just as
without crime there would also be neither justice
or mercy, a world without suffering would also be
a world without compassion. A world without need
is a world without giving. And a world without all
of the things which we hate in life just might
also be a world without all of the things we
aspire to, all of the things we hope to be, all of
the best qualities that we love to see in others
and someday hope to see in ourselves.
of it this way: The outpouring of compassion and
charity in response to acts of terrorism, the
actions of a heroic many, acts of sacrifice in the
face of suffering… all of these would have been
left undone, had tragedy never occurred. A world
without terrorists is a world without heroes.
that make it worth it? Does growth justify pain?
Does healing justify illness? I don't know if I
can answer that question. In fact, the question is
so large, I feel helpless in the face of it. But I
do know that when I see suffering, looking for the
Kingdom response, seeing the positive character
quality that the particular tragedy could evoke
helps me to make sense of what would otherwise be
say that a broken bone, once healed, is stronger
than one never broken. What if, in Gods economy, a
healed person is better than one who has never
been sick? What if a grateful, forgiven person is
better than one who never needed forgiveness and a
person who has been through tragedy, loss and
suffering, yet grown because of it is better than
one who never knew pain? What if a fallen world,
filled with compassion, forgiveness and redemption
is better than one that never knew sin. Maybe that's
why God allows all those things that make us ask
I watched the Michael Moore documentary Roger and
Me about GM plant closings and their effect on the
town of Flint, Michigan. All through the film was
sprinkled footage of families being evicted from
their homes, even one on Christmas Eve. Moore's
point was to show culpability by the head of GM,
Roger Smith- why wouldn't he come to Flint and see
what practical effects his decisions were having
on this community and on families and individuals?
As I watched scene after scene of mostly women
being removed from their houses or apartments,
what I kept wondering was not where is Roger?- not
even where is God? but where are the Christians?
tragedy of those evictions represented many
things- a failure in the system, irresponsibility
both corporate and individual, the downside of a
capitalistic system… but most of all they
represented an opportunity for compassion, for
mercy, for giving. But no one seemed to want to
grab hold of that opportunity. The cries for mercy
from mothers of small children watching their
belongings being lined up on the street outside of
the houses they were losing went unheeded.
would have been the result had someone stepped in,
taken one of those families under their wing and
helped them? How would the Kingdom have been
advanced if it had been Christians rather than a
film-maker who heeded the words of Scripture to
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the
oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights
of widows. (Isaiah 1:17)
said that we would always have the poor. The real
question is, will they have us? Will we allow the
suffering in the world to act upon us, will we
allow tragedy to have its intended effect on us-
planting the seeds of compassion, seeing them
sprout into giving and coming to full flower in
question of suffering will always remain. People
will always ask Why is God allowing this? But at a
certain point we lose the right to even ask the
question if we are unwilling to do anything that
might contribute to an answer, even if its just
the answer to one other persons suffering.
if YOU called for help and no one came.