God is not a spectator

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc

We live in a finite world where everything is dying, shedding its strength. This is hard to accept, and all our lives we look for exceptions to it. We look for something strong, undying, infinite. Religions tells us that something is God. Great, we say, we’ll attach ourselves to this strong God. Then this God comes along and says, “Even I suffer. Even I participate in the finiteness of this world.” Thus Clare and Francis’ image of God was not an “alimighty” and strong God, but in fact a poor vulnerable, and humble one like Jesus. This is at the heart at the Biblical and Franciscan worldview.

The enfleshment and suffering of Jesus is saying that God is not apart from the trials of humanity. God is not aloof. God is not a mere spectator. God is not merely tolerating or even healing all human suffering. Rather, God is participating with us–in all of it–the good and the bad! I wonder if people can avoid becoming sad and cynical about the tragedies of history if they do not know this.

Richard Rohr, adapted from Job and the Mystery of Suffering

The above quote was one of the most meaningful texts I read last year. It is radical, this idea that God enters into our suffering. Our picture of God is often one in which he is unaffected by us, removed from our grief. But this is not the God revealed in Jesus.

That God has suffered and suffers still has been incredibly meaningful for me these past few days. I can not seem to sleep in while pregnant (which I still am, for an indeterminate amount of time), and Friday and Saturday mornings found me awake and entrenched in pain beyond anything I had felt before. It was agony, the kind of grief that makes you want to just quietly give up and die, rather than living another moment in that pain.

During these hours, the most helpful activity was imagining Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. There he knelt, this man of sorrows, sweating blood and tears and begging for things to be different. His closest friends lay a stones throw away, but they were sleeping, unaware of the agony so near to them. As I lay in bed, I imagined myself crawling up to Jesus in that garden, looking at him in his grievous state, and telling him that my baby had died. I knew that this pain was not beyond him, that it was not too great or too insignificant for him. And I knew that he grieved with me.

This is the kind of God that we have, and it fills me with peace. He is not an impassible, unmovable God. It is easy to feel like I should ignore or push away my grief during times like this, but I’m glad that I don’t need to feel that way around Jesus. I’m glad he lets me join him in his suffering and shares with me in mine.



  1. […] forgetful. And at times like this, I would not remember dwelling uponĀ God’s creativity or visiting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane if I hadn’t typed it out here. The other night, a friend asked me what has helped me the most […]

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