Please join me in this prayer as we get into Session 3
God, we gather here to hear your word and respond to it together. As we move deeper into this season of Lent, help us to ask hard questions, to listen for your voice, and to turn toward you with all that we are. Give us ears to hear your word, eyes to see your face, and courage to follow the path you set before us. Through Christ we pray. Amen.
So…repentance. Like the handout discusses, this is not always a fun topic. When you hear the word repentance – are you inclined to think about the definition that the author mentions: “get on your knees, blurt out your sins and say you’re sorry”? Indeed that seems to be the general thought around the issue – especially if you do a Google Image Search for repentance, you get a lot of those types of images (see here).
Or does the idea of repentance as metanoia, of turning around 180º, make the idea of repentance more palatable? (Note that it’s 180º degrees, and not 360º. I always love when someone is talking about how much they’ve changed and say “I’ve made a 360º change!)
The handout goes on to talk about the question of theodicy. Just this past week at youth group, I asked the youth to write down some questions they had to discuss in youth group sometime. Over half of their questions had to do with theodicy; below are just two examples:
- If God loves everyone, why is it in a war God lets the side who kills more people win?
- If God loves everyone, why punish people?
How have you experienced this question in your own life? Is it one that is troubling to you?
The author shares three possible answers to this question of theodicy:
- Even though tragic circumstances and death are very real now, they are not God’s ultimate will for humanity. I agree with the dissatisfaction with this answer – while it’s nice to know that’s not what God ultimately wants, it still doesn’t answer the question for right now – what about the pain that we are experiencing now?
- From the book of Job: God (essentially) says, “You don’t get it – trust me.” I think this is a helpful reminder for us, that God’s ways aren’t our ways, and God’s thoughts aren’t our thoughts…and yes, we surely do need to trust God…but, again, it’s kind of a non-answer.
- Love and suffering found in the cross. This is the answer that the author finds the most fulfilling. That Jesus, haven’t experienced pain and sacrificial loss through death on the cross, knows what we are experiencing.
Do any of these explanations work for you? Have you heard others that are less or more helpful?
For me – the third “answer” to the question of theodicy gets closest to how to think about this, but still never answers the question of “Why?” Most of you all know that we lost our twin boys, Micah and Judah, halfway through the pregnancy. Of course, the question “Why?” was on my lips for weeks and weeks after that tragedy. And for me…I think I still have that question, and I don’t have an answer. But what does get me through it, is knowing that God suffers WITH me. God knows suffering – as God watched God’s own son, Jesus the Christ, die on the cross…God knows what suffering is, God is there WITH me, God is there WITH you as you experience suffering and tragedy and the incredibly sad and crappy parts of life.
Like I said – that doesn’t address the “Why?” or the nagging “Did God cause this? Did God simply allow it to happen?” questions that may still be there, beneath the surface…but it does remind us that regardless, God is present and with us in our suffering.
What else stood out to you about this week’s lesson? Any nagging questions still with you? Any new insight that you gained?