The news from the Philippines is so bleak. The smell of bodies under rubble in Tacloban. People scavenging for food, living in the ruins of their homes with nowhere else to go. Looting.

Typhoon Haiyan may have killed thousands. It’s what your insurance company means by “Act of God” in the “things we don’t pay for” small print.

I would never call an event like this an “act of God.” Many scientists studying climate change say that storms like this are going to get more and more common, and they lay the blame for climate change in the destructive and wasteful ways we live. God doesn’t need to mix in in the misery and suffering of the world. The world, natural or human, manages just fine in this regard without any divine “aid” whatsoever.

Yet whenever we experience extreme loss or challenge, many of us are driven to wonder: “Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve this?” Somehow in such moments we forget that the sun rises and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous both (Matthew 5:45). That’s clear in the pictures from Tacloban. No one living in that island city has gone unscathed.

Brian Stoffregen, commentating on Luke’s account of the cross at, says that even while Jesus is dying, one of criminals dying beside him “has the faith to see and believe that Jesus can remember him…This dying king can remember him,” in this world and the next.

Sometimes, or maybe even most of the time, “why” is just the wrong question. We might just as well ask, “When…when will I suffer, Lord?” Suffering is a built in feature of existence. This is not the new creation, Christian theology teaches, only the old creation being re-birthed. Birthing hurts. Sometimes it even kills.

Maybe, in that dying man’s plea to Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom,” we get an answer that makes it possible to endure and even find wellness within the midst of trials. The art of suffering might just be to see the face of Christ suffering beside us and within us, and to trust that God will work good from that suffering. Just as God conquered death through the cross of Jesus Christ, so can new life arise out of every form of human suffering.

It’s not an easy answer.

It’s a really bad answer to shove down a suffering person’s throat.

But it is an answer that, once embedded in the heart of faith, sustains and gives hope when hope seems impossible.

May God grant hope to the people of the Philippines, and grace to the rest of to be the hands and feet of that hope.

Photo Credit: New York Post

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