the ultimate question when faced with suffering

Suffering raises questions. Big ones. We’re already seeing this with the floods on the east coast of Australia.

Toowoomba flood 2011

Predictably, we’re also seeing commentators wading in with insights and explanations. Some showing a tremendous confidence that they know exactly what it means and what God’s doing in the midst of this disaster.

I doubt I have anything particularly new or earth-shattering to add. I simply want to draw attention to Revelation 6.9-10:

I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?’

Here’s a picture of some people who’ve faced pretty severe suffering — they’ve been killed for their faithful witness to God.

As savage and shocking as their outburst might sound, I find it intriguing that these sufferers don’t seem to be particularly interested in insights or explanations. They don’t ask ‘Why?’. Instead, they ask ‘How long?’

How long until what?

Until God shows up to judge, justly dealing with suffering and its root cause.

They’re not after answers or explanations. They’re after presence — God’s presence. Personal and willing and able to make a difference.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that ‘How long until God shows up?’ is the ultimate question when faced with suffering.

Because showing up is what all sufferers need. It’s what they need from God. And it’s what they need from us…

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