It seems hardly necessary to make an argument for the universally experienced suffering and injustice prevalent in the world. If pain really is God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world”, as C. S. Lewis argues, then the message is deafeningly clear and God might consider turning the volume down a bit. When it comes to pain and suffering, the world is “all ears” as all creation “groans as in birth pangs” waiting eagerly to be released from its bondage to decay (Rom 8). There is a universal yearning to be rescued from this vale of tears. Lewis captures the nauseating aches of our common human plight:
“When I think of pain-of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man’s heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased, of infuriating scorpion-stinging pains that startle into maniacal movements a man who seemed half dead with his previous tortures-it “quite o’ercrows my spirit.” If I knew any way of escape I would crawl through sewers to find it.”
And so we crawl and we crawl through our tunnels of pain, searching desperately for a glimmer of light in the distance. Every now and then a ray of light pierces the darkness, illuminating our passage just long enough to show how filthy and hopeless our predicament really is. Then, with the blink of an eye, the light is gone and we are left again on our hands and knees, groping aimlessly in the dark.
The Scriptures also bear vivid witness to the ugly reality of suffering. The language of lament fills the Psalter: “Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress” (Ps 102). The wise sages are nearly crushed by the apparent futility of life in a broken world: “[Life] is useless, useless, said the Philosopher… You spend your life working, laboring, and what do you have to show for it? Generations come and generations go, but the world stays just the same…it is all useless. It is like chasing the wind.” (Ecc 1:2-4, 14).”
In fact, we might be better off living in ignorance than turning our minds to face the dire straits we are in. For as the Teacher says, “The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know, the more it hurts” (Ecc 1:18). The prophets especially share our grimy sewer experience:
We hope for light to walk by, but there is only darkness, and we grope about like blind people. We stumble at noon, as if it were night, as if we were in the dark world of the dead. We are frightened and distressed. We long for God to save us from oppression and wrong, but nothing happens (Isa 59:9-11).
Still the prophets peer through the storm clouds of the present and forecast a brighter tomorrow when justice will at last “flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry” (Amos 5:4). But this vision of a Prince of Peace remained only a fanciful dream and the Prince of Darkness continued to hold sway throughout the remainder of the OT period.
But the flickering light of hope would not be completely snuffed out. The Light would shine at last….
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