My good friend Rich Simpson posted the following on his blog (link below, and also in the sidebar) on March 18th. Having recently reflected on suffering here with Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts (prompted by the destruction in Japan), I found these words an apt follow-on. According to Rich, “the sermon was titled ‘The Uses and Misuses of Suffering’ and can be found in Volume I of The Collected Sermons: The Riverside Years:”
If the only God I could believe in was the God of…atheists like Nietzsche and Camus, I too would be an atheist. I could never believe in a God who didn’t suffer – given the suffering of the world. I could never believe in a God whose chief characteristic was his power, not his goodness. And because my God is a God of goodness, his chief characteristic is not peace but pain. I only quote Scripture, “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” My God hangs upon a cross, a victim not an executioner; the quarry, not the hunter; and one who not only suffers with me but for me, seeking not only to console but, beyond consolation, to strengthen me. Such a God I can affirm and a world with such a God in it I can affirm too. Metaphysically, I can’t answer the problem of pain. I can only resolve it by sharing it – by holding hands with the dying, by protesting in the name of my crucified Lord against war, hunger, oppression, torture, against suffering inflicted by our own human injustice. I know that the worst of all evil is indifference to evil…to keep vigil with him who neither slumbers nor sleeps – that’s the way to live.