Happy New Year!

Christmas felt like it came up on us quickly and was over very quickly. I hope you had a blessed holiday season that brought you joy and contentment.

Some people I know expressed this year that they just couldn’t get into the spirit of things. It just didn’t feel like Christmas. I know there have been years I felt the same, only to be surprised that the ‘Christmas Spirit’ came in a quieter way than riding on the notes of carols, the twinkling of lights and the laughter of parties. Sometimes the Christmas Spirit is a deeper sense of God’s presence that maybe we won’t find in the festivities.

Maybe we have a difficult time identifying the Christmas Spirit when we see so much suffering, when we continue to struggle with isolation and loss due to Covid, when we see violence increase, when more and more people experience hunger or suffer due to lack of medical care, when we experience a crushing medical diagnosis and when we see our country torn apart, not by an external aggressor, but by our own divisions. When the carols fade and the lights go out and the invitations stop coming it feels like the darkness creeps back over us.

And that is when we begin to question God “If God is all powerful, then why are so many bad things happening in the world?” God Almighty is certainly a theme in Christianity. We refer to God as almighty in hymns, prayers, and the creeds we recite. Western theology has long expressed that divine sovereignty puts God in complete control of everything with unrestricted power. So, if God is almighty why is there great suffering? Why Nazi death camps, or 9/11, or wild fires and floods, or senseless shootings, Covid 19 or cancer and other incurable diseases? What does faith mean when such suffering happens in the world and in our own homes?

The prosperity gospel has long purported the idea that if you have enough faith, if you pray right, if you purge sin from your life, if you live right…you will be blessed with wealth and health. But, it too often fails. People live good and true lives all the time only to find they too suffer.

Faith in God is not transactional. We live in a broken world. The same world that God chose to enter, to be one of us, to suffer as one of us, to live with all of the pain as well as the joy that comes to us in life. God does not want us to suffer, God does not want us to have cancer, or to be victims of crime, or contract a deadly virus or to lose a loved one. God chose to walk as we walk and suffer as we suffer in the life of Christ.

Often when we suffer painful events, we become connected to others who suffer in pain. We walk with others and support others and understand their lives with a clarity we did not have until we experienced our own suffering. Our pain brings us closer to the enormity of the love of God who chose pain and suffering and death just to be with us because God does not will that we suffer alone.

God’s almightiness is mentioned only 10 times in the New Testament and 9 of those are in the book of Revelation. All ten references to God almighty are in regard to God’s ultimate triumph in history. In the end God wins in the struggle with sin and suffering and death just as love, justice and peace will prevail. Until then God settles to be with us through every struggle we will face. The greatest almighty characteristic about God is love—love that stands in solidarity with the hurt that we and others endure.

Therefore, as we begin a new year and when we are discouraged, let us always remember that there is absolutely nothing that will separate us from the love of God who walks beside us in all things.

Blessings to you and yours in the New Year!