When I got to the school I work at this morning there was a bit of a panic on. A baby woodpecker had injured itself and was lying in the school
grounds. The cute little birdie was duly boxed up and taxied to the local pet superstore by two members of staff - not any old staff, mind - one was
If people can be so moved by the plight of a bird of little value, how come God seems so remote when we consider the plight of humanity? No need to
list the diverse aspects of misery and suffering in this life - they are all too familiar.
As a Christian I have accepted Christ's claim that he was, and is the Creator of this world and all that is in it. If that is what he is, why on
earth didn't he rid the world of pain and suffering when he lived among us? Does he care? Is he interested?
If, as we believe, he voluntarily left the realm of Heaven, (another dimension to the modern mind, perhaps, but actually a realm distinct from this
space/time continuum, which is actually just God's temporary project,) and entered ours, there must have been a pretty good reason. How did he define
He stood up in a Jewish place of worship, unrolled a scroll, found part of a prophesy written many hundreds of years previously, and read it out as
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.
And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him.
He began by saying to them,
"Today as you listen,
this Scripture has been fulfilled".
Gospel of Luke 4:18-21
By stating that he was fulfilling the prophesy he was, if you like, laying out his manifesto.
It seems he did come to rid people of several things, namely: bondage, blindness, oppression and divine judgement, in which case yes, he does care,
and yes, he is interested. But while he went about his business with unstoppable passion, his priorities differed from what we might naturally have
He created food miraculously - could he/can he not then solve the problem of hunger?
He healed physical disability and illness - could he/can he not relieve such things universally?
Prior to the cross he stated he could have called on immense supernatural intervention to avoid it had he so wished - so why didn't he/doesn't he
rid the world of tyranny and oppression?
The answer is simply that he came to deal with the root and ultimate origin of all suffering - yes all
suffering: alienation from God.
The bondage he came to sever was our servitude to corruption and lust.
The blindness he came to dispel was to the reality of God, the Maker of all.
The oppression he came to release from was the guilt of a bad conscience and the fear of death.
The period of the Lord's favour is the period of history between his first appearance and his second, final appearance. This period, which we are
highly privileged to live in, is defined as a time of opportunity for people of every nation to find peace with God no matter who they are or what
they have done.
His mission was clear, and he saw it as of such ultimate importance for the human race that he was not inclined to be sidetracked into issues which
for us often appear far more important, such as universal physical pain and suffering.
Yet the irony is that to deal with what he regarded as the greatest human needs, he had to suffer physical agony and psychological torment the like of
which no other person ever endured.
We believe as the only human who was pure and faultless to the core of his being he knew peace and blessing within that we can't begin to grasp.
Never a pang of conscience or regret. The psychological torment of a soul of such perfect innocence enduring God the Father's fury at the rebellion
and corruption of the human race must have been infinite.
In the light of such things I say God cares. Cares beyond the human capacity to care. Christ did all this while people stood by, jeering and mocking,
as many do to this day. Yet he prayed for those very people and died to offer them the same freedoms he had proclaimed at the outset.
Is suffering really insignificant by comparison? No, not insignificant. There are plenty of books that address this issue, 'The Problem of Pain' by
C.S. Lewis being one of the best known, and I don't intend to attempt my own explanation.
But it does have to be said that God has this admittedly mysterious perspective: while all suffering can ultimately be traced back to human folly, he
does still permit the suffering to continue.
It appears that suffering is perversely one of the few things that can arouse a person's awareness that there must be more to life than what we
experience here and now. Knowing this, God permits it, in order to incline people to seek him.
He gives no full explanation, and is not ultimately answerable to us. But this is his perspective:
...that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
...as Heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts
Despite appearances, God is involved in this world, and has intervened at enormous cost to himself for our ultimate good.
What about the woodpecker? If people will go to such trouble to save it, what is God's perspective?
Aren't two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's consent. But even the hairs of your head
have all been counted.
Gospel of Matthew 10:29&30
The point is clear. If the Almighty is not oblivious to the plight of a bird, he is intimately acquainted with us, personally, and working for our
ultimate good through the mother of all emergency runs - completed two thousand years ago.
It still achieves today all that Christ set out to do when he read that beautiful excerpt from the scroll, as I, and millions of others, have