Last night, Jon and I went and heard Rob Bell speak. On tour for his newest book, Drops Like Stars, the age-old issue of the existence of suffering in a world governed by an allegedly good God.

It’s a question that I struggle with frequently. If God is good, then why are there more slaves today than at any other point in history? If God is good, then how can he allow children born into slavery in India, freedom not even a concept, much less a reality? If God is good, then how can he allow this 10-year-old girl to be raped over and over in a brothel in Cambodia?

The thesis of the speech was that, perhaps, when we encounter suffering, we ask the wrong question: Why? Maybe we require a reorientation. Maybe the real question we should be asking is, What now? How do we let our suffering then shape us if we certainly cannot go back to the way things used to be? Rob referred to “the art of the disruption”: your life is altered so significantly as a result of an instance of great suffering, and so everything must change.

Upon further rumination though––and while I love idea of a reorientation––this doesn’t answer the question of that boy in India or that girl in Cambodia or any of the human beings who are slaves in this very moment. To ask them, “How will you let your suffering shape you? Will you let it destroy you or make you stronger?” seems inconsiderate at the very least.

Perhaps in that context––and that is the context of our world where thousands of individuals are infected with HIV daily with no access to anti-retrovirals, where 29,000 children die from hunger every 24 hours, where millions are enslaved, millions more forced to flee their homes as refugees, and the list goes on––perhaps in that context, there is another question we need to ask: how do we let the suffering of others shape us?

Maybe we were created to be the answers to each others’ prayers.


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