Monday, 1 March 1999
The Hardest Question?
A Jewish theologian called Hessel recalls a story of an old Jewish Rabbi. The Rabbi was telling his young students about Abraham and Isaac – how God told Abraham to offer up his own son Isaac as a sacrifice. The Rabbi had his class on the edge of their seats as he built towards the climax of the story and the old man was about to plunge the dagger into the boy … “but then in the nick of time the Angel of the Lord came and saved Isaac.” There was a pause. Then one of the boys spoke up, “But Rabbi, what if the Angel of the Lord had come too late?” “The Angel of the Lord never comes too late”, replied the Rabbi.
Yes (comments Hessel) the Angel of the Lord never comes too late … except at
Auschwitz … there the Angel of the Lord came too late six million times.
The problem of evil and suffering, especially unjust suffering, will always be the biggest problem for those who believe in God. If God is good and God is powerful how can God allow such suffering as there is in this world? Why does he not step in and prevent it? Many books have been written to excuse God and resolve the problem, and some are quite plausible, but the power of that simple question will always remain.
Having faith doesn’t make these questions go away unless it’s a faith that has closed eyes and ears. But, on the other hand, having these questions doesn’t exclude us from the possibility of coming to faith. No one can prove beyond doubt that God exists, but then again even the problem of suffering isn’t proof that he doesn’t.
So, if having faith seems hard sometimes or if you have questions that aren’t yet resolved, don’t conclude that you can’t be a Christian. It’s the same for all of us. Real faith will always be a struggle and a journey of discovery. If we set out on that journey then through the doubts and difficulties we will keep coming back to the conviction that there is someone there, someone who loves us, someone we can trust.