Yesterday my wife forwarded me an article from the New York Times written by Op-Ed columnist David Brooks entitled The Art of Presence. The piece, published on January 20 talks about the learnings of a family who had experienced a set of traumas (the unexpected death of a daughter, and five years later a life-changing accident involving their other daughter).
The portion of the article that caught my eye and sparked reflection for me most is the last three paragraphs. The father had this to say about theology:
“Theology is a grounding in ultimate hope, not a formula book to explain away each individual event.”
I believe he is right. The eternal question of, “Why, God? Why?!” when the inexplicable happens is not one that is easily or fully answered and sometimes is never answered as we might like. The answer to the mournful plea to the simple question, “Why?” almost always remains a mystery and the answer is almost never found in our theology.
Our faith, our belief, our trust, and all our hope on God is founded (to borrow a phrase from Robert Bridges via Joachim Neander). As Christians we have all of our faith resting squarely on the good news of the gospels, on the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the unending, awesome love of God.
Theology–the study of the nature of God–does not give a step-by-step account or manual for how to deal with tragedy in our lives. However, when we live our lives as Mr. Brooks describes in his article above, when we are present to those who are grieving or suffering, we are helping to put our theology into action. In doing so we are reflecting the love that God has for all of God’s creation…and bringing the kingdom of God near to those who may need that love, that presence the most.
In Christ’s name,