In the Passion of the Christ, Jesus' suffering and death evokes a sense of sadness. Jesus was a good man who suffered death 'unjustly'. As the story unfolds you wonder, 'Why did God forsake Jesus? The question: "Where is God when it hurts"? – is important, not merely to understand the passion of the Christ but also to seek the significance of faith in the context of BAD things happening to GOOD people. By Sam Thambusamy.
It hurts to see BAD things happen to GOOD people, not just in movies but all the more in real life. In moments of 'pain', and 'powerlessness, the notions of a GOOD God forms the subject of an intense debate as various arguments both 'for' and 'against' are brought under intense 'rational' scrutiny. To some, a GOOD God who allows GOOD people to suffer BAD is 'rationally' untenable, and they reject the idea of God. For a few others, the idea of a GOD who cannot effect any GOOD is deemed 'meaningless' and they resort to ridicule. Nevertheless, the faithful still hold that there is a deep sense of mystery in the workings of God that only faith can unlock. And yet, between these two extreme ideological stances, the 'myth –meaninglessness' debate, there is some 'logical' space to posit a GOOD God who allows BAD things to happen to GOOD people to accomplish a larger purpose. But, the GOOD God stands the danger of being misunderstood: either as a 'scary' sadist or a careless 'play writer' who heartlessly scripts his characters to fit the larger plot. Skeptics hold that the trajectories of faith are a clever invention to variously deal with measure of pain. And therefore, it is important to discover the locus of God's presence, his power and his activity within the threshold of 'pain' and 'powerlessness' so as to re-claim the significance of faith to push the debate a little forward. Jesus was 'helpless' – a victim of religious hatred and intolerance, a victim of social power-play between religious orders clamoring for a shrinking social space in the face of alien occupation and a victim of a Roman Governor who reflected his own insecurities of political failure, none less different from the Empire he represented in the troubled Roman outpost. Why couldn't God help him? Where was God when Jesus was falsely accused and 'unjustly' punished with a death penalty? It hurts to see BAD things happen to GOOD people. Even today, there are many whose right to life itself are crushed by forces of systemic evil, which constantly re-invents itself and continue to threaten hope for new life. Jesus' pain and powerlessness and his consequent death raise a question, "Where is God when it hurts?" As I watched the movie, I found the silence of God more 'deafening' than the wailing of women who had crowded along the streets of Jerusalem to see Jesus being led out of the City by the Roman guards. Was God, like the many others who stood in the streets that day, helpless to take the cause of an innocent one crushed by the crumbling system of justice? Perhaps, the modern mind that glories in its agnostic stance has already raised it quite cautiously, "Where is God when it hurts the most?" – Without having to deny the existence of God 'indifferently'. It hurts to 'suffer' unjustly and the experience is sometimes 'doubly' painful- for the physical pain and its mental variant that scar the psyche sting very differently. How can a GOOD God allow GOOD people to suffer BAD things? In the context of such 'unjust' suffering, 'where is God when it hurts?' is a legitimate one. It hurts – to see yourself sink deeper in despair – every passing moment; every passing day – despite your faith in God. In moments of pain, it is the 'personal' knowledge of God's goodness, love and power and its seeming impotency to spring life that remains the weakest link. At this critical juncture, some hold that the idea of God can only be 'irrationally' sustained. So, faith in God is seen as various 'subjective' attempts to deal with ones measure of pain. This is the underlying assumption of the question: Where is God when it hurts? Moreover, the proverbial Marxian invention of God as 'the opium of man' and Fuerbach's 'Religious projection' is replayed in contemporary language variously as: ' clever invention', 'switch-over to fantasy mode', 'emotional crutch' and 'a measure of pain'. However, those who nourish faith hold on to God stronger, even though their faith constantly passes through 'crises' of doubt. Faith emerges stronger as it passes through doubt and is constantly revised through an intimate knowledge of the divine presence and power. Not surprisingly, Jesus' faith emerges stronger through the experience of pain and powerlessness as it passes through moments of doubt. Jesus' cry, 'Why have you forsaken me' is a reflection of a 'faith-that-passes-through-doubt' continuum. It takes enormous courage to go through 'pain' with awareness of God's presence around you. Only faith that is nourished by an intimacy of God's presence can get you the courage to willingly accept 'unjust' suffering. This is a 'frozen' moment in time and space – that suspends the human will from its proclivities to hurt at every perception of threat and moves it closer the possibilities of reflecting divine attributes. It is at this moment of 'yielding' that there is transference of God's grace, a divine interpenetration of Being that only faith can sense. As it happens, the divine empowers us to see life – even in its darkest shades of ugliness and the pain of brokenness – as a gift of God. It grants to us grace to interpret the whole of life – including life's darkest shades – in the larger setting of God's purpose, revealed in glimpses at the appropriate time. You are empowered to say: 'Father! Forgive them for they know not what they are doing'. Faith in God is not an emotional response. It is a spiritual response to discover God 'experientially' in the very footprints of pain and powerlessness. God may be a 'silent' actor but His silence is not indicative of his absence. He 'silently' accompanies our journey, sustains us by His grace and suffers alongside with us. This is no subjective experience. It's spiritual reality is objectively 'proven' in the emergence of a strong inner-self that derives comfort; healing and a fresh lease of hope against all odds, sometimes even at the face of continual defeat and constant threat of danger. But more significantly, it is the outward expression of love a
nd courage to forgive those who perpetuate it –This, till date remains a mystery: the power to love those who hate you and hurt you. This, then, is the significance of 'authentic' faith. It is such 'authentic' faith that helps us discover God's power and presence – when it hurts and where it hurts the most. God was with Jesus, as he was led toGolgotha to be crucified.