The Question of Pain and Suffering

What can I say? What can anyone say? These questions and many more still whirl around in my head. So I sit at my desk for a long time in front of an empty computer screen. Staring. Praying. Wondering.

Finally I have the courage to start writing. On this particular day I’m wearing a hockey jersey that I wore some 35 years ago in small town Saskatchewan! I chose to wear my old sweater because of the colours green and yellow. They’re not exactly Humboldt Bronco colours but they’re the closest I have. I’ve also noticed a lot of homes in town with hockey sticks displayed on their porches (another way those touched by this tragedy are honouring the Broncos).

I first heard about the accident when a friend of mine texted me to ask if my brother’s bus company had the contract for the Humboldt Broncos? I wondered why such a question. Then he informed me that there had been a bad accident involving a charter bus. Later that evening, as I realized the magnitude of what had just happened, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. So much pain and suffering!

I watched the vigil covered live by the CBC on Sunday night. The Humboldt Broncos chaplain, Sean Brandow, spoke. He said that there are two questions that are often asked when the unthinkable happens. “Why?” and “Where?”

“Why did this happen?” Pastor Sean admitted that he’d like to have the answers as a spiritual leader in the community but the truth was that he didn’t. Some of the typical responses to the “why?” question acknowledge that we live in a broken world and that until redemption is fully realized there will continue to be pain and suffering. That’s true but not really helpful. We don’t know why bad things happen to good people. Sadly, they just do. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t care.

The second question is “Where was God?” Sean suggests two answers for this question. “God is on the throne and God is with the broken hearted.”

The fact that God is on the throne doesn’t mean that something bad won’t happen. I am reminded of a verse often quoted in times of testing from Jeremiah. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). It’s a beautiful thought that God has a good plan for us but the context of the verse gives us a more realistic picture. This “encouragement” was given to those who were losing their homes and being taken away into captivity! To God’s people it must have felt like He had abandoned them. He didn’t and He doesn’t!

Finally, God is with the broken hearted as David wrote in one of his psalms. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalm 34:18). God loved us so much that He put on human flesh, walking with us through His Son. Through Jesus, the God-Man, He experienced suffering, pain and loss. And in our suffering it’s His desire to walk with us still.

May we find strength and healing in the God who sits on the throne, in the God who walks with us, in the God who lifts us up with his nail-scarred hands.