Not Having the Answers

We are in some sense better off not having satisfying answers to vexing intellectual questions about why suffering, evil, and pain exist in the world. If we can say, “Oh, there’s a clear reason for this,” we can remain aloof, safe in the cool and lofty realm of impersonal logic in relation to human suffering. We can explain instead of empathize, theorize instead of pray, and answer instead of act. But in the absence of a satisfying logical explanation for human suffering, we must descend from our brains into our hearts and respond to the suffering of others with tears and action, not just words and more words.

So, we practice compassion and intercession not because we have fully satisfying answers to explain the suffering of others, but because we don’t. The practice of compassion or intercession, in this light, is not just a response to the agony of another in pain; it is also the response to our own agony of not having answers about why anybody is in pain. It is a way of saying, “For a fellow creature to be in pain and without help in God’s universe is simply unacceptable to both God and me. So I will go in between the two. I will grasp the hand of God with one hand and grasp the hand of my neighbor in pain with the other. I will join God in willing comfort, blessing, peace, and grace for my sister or brother in need.”

— Brian D. McLaren, Naked Spirituality, p. 126-127

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