A Broken World and a Good God
by Tom Goodman
September 18, 2013
Have you had a "but even so" moment yet?
Kobayashi Issa was an 18th century haiku master. In my favorite of his poems he wrote:
The world of dew is, yes,
a world of dew,
but even so
As a lay Buddhist priest, Issa believed that the best response to suffering was stoic detachment, freeing oneself from the impulse to cling possessively to impermanent things. In his haiku, then, he acknowledged the way he was taught to see the
world -- as ephemeral dew. And yet with that last line he pushed back against this worldview at the same time.
Given his experience with suffering, the pushback is understandable. As Pico Iyer recently wrote in the New York Times:
Issa had seen his mother die when he was 2, his first son die, his father contract typhoid fever, his next son and a beloved daughter die. He knew that suffering was a fact of life, he might have been saying in his short verse; he knew that
impermanence is our home and loss the law of the world. But how could he not wish, when his 1-year-old daughter contracted smallpox, and expired, that it be otherwise?
No matter how neatly we arrange our worldview, suffering scrambles it. This is true whether we're founding life on Buddhist principles or secular sensibilities or any other persuasion.
And it's true of Christian convictions, too. What does the Christian do with her belief in an all-powerful, all-loving God when heartbreak crashes in?
This may be the toughest of the Seven Big Questions in our "Explore God" series. It's certainly the most personal.
I read a fascinating report in Wired about a study in pain management. In experiments, scientists found that we survive pain better if our minds are occupied with
thoughts of someone we deeply love.
In the Christian worldview, we process suffering by focusing on the One who suffered for us. Of all the world's religions, only one describes God as experiencing the ruin of the world as a man. But on the cross he was doing more than just
identifying with the ruin of the world: He was carrying away the sin that ruined the world so that he could begin the process of making all things new.
Are you in pain? We'll help you focus on the Beloved this Sunday.
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