• October 17, 2019

DAWNINGS: Thinking about theodicy - Odessa American: Columns

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DAWNINGS: Thinking about theodicy

The Rev. Dawn Weaks is the co-pastor of Connection Church in Odessa.

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Posted: Saturday, October 12, 2019 5:30 am

“It’s cancer.” That’s not what you want to hear when you’re in between taking your son to piano and your daughter to violin lessons. But four years ago, after my annual mammogram, the suspicious looking calcification had been biopsied, and wham. There you go. I kicked that cancer to the curb in October of 2015. But the theodicy lessons I learned from it have stuck with me.

“Theodicy” is our beliefs about God and how God interacts with suffering. Maybe you've had reason to rethink your theodicy too, whether it be because of an illness, or maybe the mass shooting we had, or another tragedy. There’s a lot of theodicy that seems to work for people that doesn’t pass muster with me anymore. I don’t begrudge people their “everything happens for a reason” and  “If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it” sayings. I might be a little jealous of them, even, because their comfort seems within arm’s reach. After years as a pastor journeying beside people who were sick, abused, incarcerated, dying, celebrating, grieving, and growing, I am compelled to reach deep into Scripture and Christian tradition to seek out some things that seem true and not just trite. 

For one, I believe I got cancer not because it happened for a reason, nor that God “brought me to it.” I believe I got cancer because our world is broken. I’m made from our world’s dust, and I live as a part of it, so I’ll get broken sometimes too.

Furthermore, I believe that God doesn’t want the world to be broken like this. This wasn’t in the original design (check out Genesis 1 and 2!). God wants mothers to live to raise their children. God wants us to be able to drive around town without being shot. I think those are givens we should all agree on. Suffering needlessly surely wasn’t somehow in God’s plan for me, or for anyone. I just can’t get down with that.

But what I am 100% on board with is that God is not just sitting up in heaven, distant from us and all our suffering. I believe that God entered into our suffering in Jesus. You want to know where God is when we are hurting? Look at Jesus on the cross (see Luke 23 for example). This is a picture of where God is: God is right there with us, taking the suffering and somehow transforming it to love and heal the world.

I believe that suffering can be comforted by the gently powerful presence of God with us. It’s been true for me, and I pray you find it not trite, but true, for you.

Odessa, TX

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