Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Crushed With Our Griefs

When it comes to Haiti, all the news is not fit to print (to invoke the slogan of a famous newspaper).

For one thing, it’s too much news. But more than that, it’s too much grief. Too much suffering. Too much sorrow. Too much devastation.

How do you quantify the brokenness? From the simple standpoint of the science, the earthquake, 7.0 on the Richter scale, was centered 2.1 miles deep some 14 miles WSW of Port-au-Prince.

More profound is the toll in human life. Estimates indicate that three million people were affected, including 230,000 who died and tens of thousands buried in mass graves. Some 20,000 commercial buildings and 225,000 residences collapsed or severely damaged. Four thousand prison inmates set loose. The educational system “totally collapsed.” The bad news overwhelms one’s psyche; the pictures depict the indescribable.

Here’s a statistic nobody has counted: how many times has someone asked, “Where is God in all of this?”

It’s a fair question, and at one level, the answer is straightforward: God is right there in the middle of it. When the world hurts, Jesus’ body shows up. More help comes in Jesus’ name than in any other. Jesus-followers were crawling around in the rubble in the rescue phase. They are there still in the relief.

Yet there is another more profound answer to the where-is-God-in-the-unspeakable-pain-and-tragedy question. The prophet Isaiah wrote about it almost three millennia back, 750 years before the angels were announcing to Bethlehem’s shepherds:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Isa 53:4-6

Jesus Christ “adopted” our sins as his own and paid for them with his blood. He took away the reproach and condemnation that we deserved. That gospel message has sounded all over the world and is being proclaimed in Haiti today.

But Isaiah prophesied another dimension of Jesus’ death, one that is also highly relevant to what is happening in Haiti today. He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows.

See any grief in Haiti today? Any sorrowing there? Jesus took it with him to Calvary. Impaled to a Roman cross in unspeakable agony, dying for the sin of the world, on him was heaped the shame and the scourging, and our sorrows and pains and griefs as well.

In some cosmic way beyond our ability to understand, Jesus Christ has felt every pain, wept every tear, been torn with every grief. He has been weighed down with all the suffering and sadness of all the world. Look at an orphan crying for his mother: if you can feel empathy you know just a fraction of the pain Jesus felt for that very child. The burden of our griefs and sorrows was added to the piercing crush of our sin. In that place of suffering, he died.

When Jesus hung on the cross, he was feeling the pain of Haiti. His body, the church, is in Haiti today. He was there. He is there still. Praise and glory belong to Him, the suffering, dying Savior of the world.