I have a confession to make: I am deeply afraid of the chaos that lingers at our doorstep, the chaos that rips into our mundane lives, forever marking a particular moment. It is the moment of the cancer diagnosis, the car accident, the death of an infant. The moment that marks everything else as before and after. The chaos that lingers around us, striking at random. And I am very afraid of the suffering we all face in this broken world of ours.
Why is this a confession? We all know the chaos is there. We all know that there is little (if anything) we can do to avoid it. We all know that it is coming. And we’d be fools not to fear the devastation left in its wake. So why is this a confession? Because, every time I hear about chaos breaking into the lives of others, my gut-response is a mixture of great sadness for them and deep thankfulness that it isn’t me. It is as if I take comfort in the statistical probability that, because chaos has wreaked havoc on others, it will most likely avoid those I love most.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t doubt that all shall be well, that (in the end) God will restore this broken world, healing the destruction that chaos brings. I cling to statistics because I am afraid that God has destined me (or my husband and children) to be one of the “Job” characters, a characters who suffers loss after loss after loss. Now, there is no actual evidence for this in my life….but the chaos is there, lingering…and I know that it could strike at any moment.
On this point, the Bible is little comfort. The book of Job tells the story of God permitting Satan (the author of all chaos) to interrupt Job’s good, righteous, and contented life as part of a showdown with Satan. Job loses his wealth, gets sick, all his children die, his wife dies, and Job continues to hold fast. His friends attempt to comfort him, suggesting the common answers to evil (it is because of sin, it is sent to teach a lesson), which the reader knows are all the wrong answers. Finally, God breaks into the scene and provides an answer to Job’s suffering. But God’s answer doesn’t challenge the reality of evil or try to make the suffering feel better somehow. Instead, he basically says, “you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes or in the bigger story.” And, in terms of an explanation for chaos in the world, that is it. That is the whole of God’s answer: you don’t know the bigger story.
Of course, the story of Job goes on to end well. Satan loses his bet with God and Job is blessed with a new family, lands, and a long life. But does the ending make up for the suffering?
This is the narrative and existential question that haunts the entire Christian story. Does the ultimate restoration of creation—God’s great work fixing the world, binding-up the broken-hearted, wiping every tear from our eyes—make up for all the tragedy along the way? Maybe.
While “maybe” may not seem like a great answer, it is an answer grounded in faith. Christianity does not call us to be blind to chaos, smile at chaos, to deny that it is chaos, to like chaos, or even to provide answers to chaos. The Christian faith calls us to the discipline of hope in the face of chaos. It calls us to have faith that the end of the story might just, somehow, be beautiful.
What guarantee do we have for this ending? What foundation for the discipline of hope? Only this: that ultimate showdown between God and the author of all chaos took place when God himself became one of us. That God’s own life was marred and, ultimately, ended by the chaos of betrayal, torture, and a miserable death. And that, in this epic battle between God and Chaos…just when it looked like the chaos had won…Jesus rose bodily from the dead.
And where does this leave my confession, my own fear of chaos. I still don’t want chaos to come. I’d rather not be a Job character in the Divine narrative. But I keep practicing the posture of hope, longing for the day when hope will be transformed into the sure, experiential knowledge of a beautiful end to the cosmic story.