The Story Begins Again

Maybe it’s because my life has had a fair amount of chaos in it the past few months, or maybe it’s because on Wednesday nights we’ve been involved in a rollicking study of Revelation (you could have been there if you’d wanted) but I’ve found myself thinking about the stuff that goes wrong and why there always seems to be so much of it and why God allows stuff like that in the first place. It’s an old question; you’re familiar with it. There is an academic, philosophical version of it but that’s not the way the question is usually asked. It’s at the life level, gut-punch level, we usually run into the question. It starts with the word why. Why is my child sick? Why am I struggling? Why do people who don’t care at all about God doing so much better than I am? And then the question morphs and adds the word doesn’t. Doesn’t God care? 

Doesn’t God care? Ever asked that quietly, privately, in your own heart, too afraid of the question to ask it out loud? It’s okay to ask. We have whole books of the Bible in which people ask it for us. Job, obviously. Habakkuk. And the Psalms. The psalms are famous for their praises but, and this shouldn’t be a shock, there are more psalms that complain to God about what he’s doing than psalms that praise him. Ask the question. It’s okay.

But here’s another surprise. You won’t get an answer. Nowhere, not in any verse in any book, does the Bible answer the why question. Look. You won’t find it in Job or anywhere else. Why does God allow bad things to happen? He doesn’t tell us. But you will find the answer to this question: What is God doing about evil? God doesn’t see evil, hurt, pain, and suffering as a question to be answered. He sees it as an invader in his world to be defeated. So what does he do? That’s a long story. Here’s the gist of it. God defeats evil by taking it on himself. He carries it. Our infirmities, iniquities, our suffering, and our sin. The story of that is the whole story the Bible tells. 

Sunday Advent begins. Maybe you think of Advent as the beginning of the Christmas season. Maybe you think of it as the time to start decorating your house or as the time to start buying presents. Maybe you think Advent is the time when we start talking about Baby Jesus. Here is what Advent is. It’s the beginning of the Christian year. It’s when we start telling the story, the story that begins with hope, hope that somehow, someway, God will find a way to bring an end to darkness and death, and then ends in peace. Shalom. All being well. In between we walk the path of love, knowing we are loved no matter the long journey, and faith, believing that God is with us. Advent begins the journey from beginning hope to final peace.

Twice along that journey the words “it is finished” appear. Once at the journey’s both lowest and highest point, when Jesus is dying on the cross. “It is finished,” said there can sound like defeat, hopes dashed, all done but the dying. It’s said a second time in Revelation 21:6 when what has died is death itself. It is finished. And there, it is finished, is a word of triumph. Peace at last. All done and no more dying. God took it on himself and killed it along with pain, suffering, and grief. The end of evil. The beginning of real life. 

That’s what God does with evil. He doesn’t explain it. He eradicates it. And this is the story we have to tell. So go tell it on the mountain.