So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering… Ephesians 3:13
The ragged, razor edges born from broken people crashing violently into other broken people by sociological forces beyond our control: like, ordering a pizza or crawling to work in rush hour traffic, going to college class or high school, or making plans to view the midnight showing of an anticipated summer movie.
When the ragged shards of humanity cut and crush deepest some lose heart. Faith in God or hope in humanity plummets. Despair is a first responder. Blame is a crime scene investigator. Rage is a coroner.
St. Paul once heard a deep, foreboding rumble in the ranks. His own persecution generated frustration among his parish planted in Ephesus. Where is God? Where is the power of God when an agent of Grace actively suffers?
I bow my knees before the Father…that…he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being… Ephesians 3:14-16
The question is not an unfair question, just a revealing one. Anyone perplexed by God’s seeming absence in tragedy is confessing, not the absence of God, but an absence of a relationship with God. St. Paul quickly moves to encourage the despairing. Stop looking for the power of God externally. The God of the Bible is not an enabler. Don’t expect God to work in ways that are counter-intuitive to the greatest proof of Divine Sovereignty, the Divine Design of Freewill. The power of God is not to be found holding the consequence of human fallibility and irresponsibility at bay. Imagining God as the cosmic, celestial Dutch Boy with a finger in a failing dam paints God as a pathetic picture of an ever other-wise committed, helplessly stuck savior.
The power of God is within you.
The Spirit of God energizes the explosive dynamic of inward change so that Christ is able to settle in.
It’s a home invasion.
It’s a marriage.
Everything is reorganized and redesigned to accommodate, not the guest, but the new, permanent resident.
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19
Knowing about Jesus. That’s insufficient. To know the love of Christ beyond knowledge demands relationship– a committed relationship. There is no power within to respond to tragedy or pain or suffering if you are just Jesus’ Facebook friend: You share some likes and some interests. You might have worked at the same job for awhile. You know His birthday. You might participate on occasion when He creates an event…
The power to respond with Holy Love to tragic, painful suffering– yours or someone else’s — begins with the power of God surging at the deepest levels of your self. This is where you will find the power of God at work to respond to the the gut-wrenching, sadistic cruelty of a morning jog or a late night walk; mailing a letter or reading at a coffee shop tainted by the darkest and lowest a human is able to do to another.
So, St. Paul, we humbly receive your prayer for us. Grace us with a blessed benediction, a promise, a cause to hope that the fullness of God is yet to be found in us and therefore among us…
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21