Summary: The earthquake in Haiti has brought home the reality of suffering on a massive scale. In the big things, and in the smaller things, where is God in grief and mourning?
Sermon for CATM – January 17, 2010 – God and Suffering:
Where is God in our Grief and Mourning?
Haiti. A country known for its poverty and its desperate need. Yvonne Martin, a nurse from Elmira Ontario and a missionary within my denomination, the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada.
Yvonne had just arrived in Haiti with five others to volunteer her medical skills and was settling in to the place where she was staying just one and a half hours after her plane hit the tarmac in Haiti. The earth moved.
The building she was in collapsed. Her five friends escaped with their lives. Yvonne was the first known Canadian fatality in an earthquake that has killed tens of thousands and we fear well into the hundred thousands of people.
There is grief EVERYWHERE in Haiti. There is mourning EVERYWHERE in Haiti.
And as we in North American and around the world watch and agonize and pray for Haiti, there is a prevailing sadness over this tragedy for a huge number of us, and an eagerness to help.
Maryellen posted on Facebook on Thursday night that she told Josh about the devastation in Haiti. Four-year old Joshua responded: “We should go there and help. I’m strong enough to lift bricks from a house”.
The world is in the thick of worry over Haiti. I hope that you are praying for the nation and praying for the people and praying for those in our military as well as civilian agencies from Canada and from around the world that are in Haiti now or on the way to bring relief to the suffering.
Thank you for giving today to the relief effort in Haiti. The entire offering, as we’ve said, will be sent there this week, doubled by our government.
Last week we looked at why there is suffering in the world. It was a lot more abstract to think about last week than it is today. A week’s worth of reports and images from Haiti have really brought it home.
But not for the first time. You and I have known suffering, real suffering. Yet our hearts and mind focus on those in Haiti for whom suffering is their food and water and oxygen. [Pause]
When tectonic plates move, tsunamis result. Earthquakes shake the planet. The earth groans.
Romans 8: 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Creation groaned underneath Haiti this past Tuesday, and grief and mourning are everywhere.
But where is God right now as we shudder at the horror experienced and still being lived in Haiti this very moment? Where IS God when things go wrong? Where is God in grief and mourning?
That is a really, really important question. But the answer is actually more important, because the answer we come to will define our faith journey. A poor answer to that question will shipwreck faith.
A good answer will enable us to draw nearer to God when things go terribly wrong.
We’ll consider these questions as we look at today’s Scripture passage, which is Psalm 42. We’re using our new pew Bibles today for the first time, so please stand as we read together.
Read: Psalm 42
What I love about the psalms in general is that they are tremendous glimpses into a number of things. They are glimpses in the soul of the writer – his agonies, his doubts, his anger, his loneliness…as well as his joy and faith.
They are glimpses at God. In Psalm 23 He is the Shepherd of our souls. In many others He is the defender of the weak. In others still He is the strength of the weary.
The glimpse we have of this psalm overall is that of someone who is at a very, very low place in his life, where answers to important questions elude him, and yet where he is able to affirm that God is present to Him, and a hope and a comfort to him.
Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
The glimpse we have in the opening verses of Psalm 42 is of someone who truly wants God as a person. His soul LONGS for, PANTS for, God with the yearning of a deer, the need and passion and single-hearted commitment that a thirsty deer has for a mountain stream.