Barb and I have been talking with a young man who is struggling. He’s questioning everything. Struggling to believe there’s a god, struggling even to find a reason to keep living. Recently he told us the world was a “beautiful hell” which he couldn’t wait to escape. I tried to help him understand what’s behind both the beauty of the world and the trouble in it. The following was my answer to him. I’m sharing it hoping someone else might be helped as well.
The world is beautiful. And the world is full of hurt. We can in one moment be stunned by its awesomeness and in the next be staggered by its awfulness. Both of these experiences convey a message to us, if we have the eyes with which to see and the ears with which to hear. The beauty is telling us there is something out there that loves us and wants us to have joy, peace even. Think about it. Things don't have to be beautiful. Oranges and pineapples don't have to taste good to induce us to eat. A pain in the stomach would work just as well. But they do taste good. There are so many other joys too. Sunsets, for example. They don’t have to be so stunning. But they are. There does not have to be the nearly infinite variety of plants and birds and animals. But there are. The world is rich with vibrant color, texture, and flavor when nothing requires it to be so. The presence of so much extravagant and unnecessary beauty in the world is saying something to us, if we listen. It’s saying something wants us to enjoy, to have a rich life. Something cares about our happiness and joy.
But the world is full of hurt and pain and that sends us a message, too. The message that sends is that something has gone wrong. We experience pain at the brokenness around us because we know deep within it's not supposed to be like this. That idea, it’s not supposed to be like this, is a familiar thought to most of us. We think this because somewhere in our souls we have a memory of how things are supposed to be. When we hear a clunk in an engine, or see a wrong answer to a math problem, we know something is wrong because we have heard what an engine is supposed to sound like and we have seen what a right answer looks like. This is the way we distinguish what is supposed to be from what isn’t supposed to be. It’s the same with the world. We know its not supposed to be this way because we have seen the way it is supposed to be. And we feel pain and brokenness at the difference. The fact that we feel this pain and know it's supposed to be better than this is another proof there is something more out there. Something, someone, is grieving at the hurt and brokenness of things and we can’t help but to grieve, too.
What did this something, then, do? He sent Jesus to fix things. Jesus came and absorbed the wrong (sin, if you like) into himself. He did both life and death the way it’s supposed to be. He loved his enemies, even died for them while praying for their forgiveness. He absorbed death into himself. His resurrection shows that. He rose, fully alive in every way, giving us a picture of what we will one day be with him and what the world will be like, too.