“Perhaps the key to facing suffering is not detachment and removal, but meaning and love. Nonattachment may shield us from suffering. To love is to be vulnerable. To desire and strive is to risk disappointment. But has Haidt notes, non-attachment also deprives us of our greatest joys. Striving, desire, and deep attachment can lead us to the precipice. But they can also bring us to treasures nonattachment cannot find.”
I’m not even sure where to begin this week. Writing and reading and studying feels insignificant and insufficient in light of what’s happening on a global scale. People around the world are suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic on a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual level. We see this suffering everywhere we look: no toilet paper on shelves, heated facebook posts on both sides of the isle of intensity, things being canceled and closed, and more. Even for myself, I am left wondering where to find God in the wee hours of the morning as I write yet another email canceling yet another event. Today, our University turned all classes online effective next week and cancelled everything. While we’re still open for business, I anticipate it will feel like a ghost-town today. It’s pretty safe to say within the last 72 hours, humanity has hit information overload.
As Christian leaders, I believe we need a strong theology of suffering. As this pandemic clearly points out, we have more information at our fingertips than ever before and our world is increasingly more connected. We have connections all over the globe. Even just in this program, we are in at least 4 different countries, and find ourselves in relationship with people we had no idea existed even just two and a half years ago. So how are we, as global Christian citizens, called to respond to the overwhelming information and fear we see before us? With a strong theology of suffering.
In her book, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion, Rebecca McLaughlin confronts suffering, along with many other difficult questions head on. She has an entire chapter dedicated a theology of suffering where she poignantly and lovingly demonstrates the suffering Jesus through the story of Mary and Martha at the death of their brother, Lazarus. She claims that suffering is not just the result of sin, nor is it the result of a God who is absent of love. Instead, she points to the fact that we are all in the middle of a story, and if we are in the midst of suffering at the present moment, it’s very challenging to know that any ending will be a happy one.
The truth is, we’re in the middle of this pandemic, and we cannot see the end of it. It is hard for us to feel confident in a happy finish to the COVID-19 crisis in a world that is shutting down by the minute. So in what can we trust? We can trust that the God who surpasses all understanding is present in the midst of this suffering. We can trust that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and is continually working to restore all things. We pray that restoration and resurrection comes quickly.
 Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Wheaton, IL.: Crossway, 2019), Loc. 4049.
 Ibid., 4155.
 Ibid., 4755.
 Ibid., 4189.