In the run up to Easter this year I have been struck by the sorrow of the world. The ongoing deteriorating situation in the Middle East, was for me highlighted by a short documentary on the life of one Syrian girl as she experiences her world falling apart over the last twelve months. The sharp horror of the Germanwings Crash. The dull ache of poverty, poor service delivery and corruption that plague us closer to home.
I am struck also by the more intimate sorrows around me; a friend going through a divorce, a mother living with the grief of a dread disease in her child, a husband mourning his wife’s death. The increase in stress in the class room as small children talk about and act out their fears and anxieties in the wake of experiencing crime.
The myth of modernity is that with scientific advances and wealth our lives can be completely sheltered from pain, fear and anxiety. The reality is that pain and suffering are everywhere – they will invade the most well-ordered lives.
Our capacity to empathise, to feel with another, even an unknown other is part of what makes us distinctly human. It is from our ability to be affected by the pain and grief of another that many of the most heroic and poignant acts of humanity stem.
The story of Easter is the story of God’s empathy for us. God’s feeling with us in our pain and sorrow. Jesus comes to Jerusalem, knowing that is dangerous. He is betrayed, abandoned by his friends, ridiculed, shamed, tortured and killed. God, in the person of Jesus, enters into the depths of our human suffering. He understands our sorrow from the inside.
How we explain or understand redemption is always difficult. For me, when I contemplate the brokenness in my own life, or when I am praying for the sorrows in the world, I can easily feel overwhelmed. I can grasp how easy it would be to give up, to despair. In these moments of darkness I find redemption in Jesus’ passion and death. In turning my eyes to God who understands the depths of human suffering. To Jesus who, even as the Risen Christ, bears the wounds of the cross in his hands and side.
Our God is not distant. God is not immune to our pain. God does not look on from a heavenly side-line. Rather God is here with us now. God is with the families who mourn their dead. God is with the child who lies suffering. God is present in the war zones, in the violence and the anger, suffering with the broken – bodied and the broken – hearted. This, for me, is the reality of redemption; we are not alone, God is with us in our pain. God offers hope when all seems hopeless, God invites us to live in the reality of the resurrection; in the promise of the fullness of life.