This month marks 4 years since I was first diagnosed with cancer.
I’ve been in remission for a while now, but I still bear the scars of that moment in my life.
If you could see through my regal mane of chest hair the scar from the biopsy is still there. I bear another scar on the other side of my chest from where the port was placed that injected the chemotherapy into my body.
I’ve thought a lot about that moment in life while being stuck at home in quarantine for the past 11 or so years. I have no idea anymore how long it’s been. I’ve lost all sense of time.
But I’ve found that same sense of fear and anxiety I had going through chemo. I’ve found myself turning once again to mindless television as a means of escape. And I’ve found myself asking once again where God is in all of this.
You know, the God who holds the whole world in his hands. The God that can create life with a mere breath. The God that divides seas and rains down bread from heaven and heals the sick and raises the dead.
Where is that God right now?
To be honest, I don’t know.
I know for sure that God did not create this virus as some twisted theological lesson or perverse punishment for our nation’s sins. No matter what you may have heard, that is not the God of the Christian faith.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t still wonder why the God who has shown time and again across the pages of history that God can clearly act in miraculous ways for some reason hasn’t intervened with some sort of storm stopping, walking across water miracle to wipe the coronavirus off the face of the earth, ending all of the needless suffering and death.
I don’t know the answer to that question and frankly I’m highly suspect of anyone who claims they do.
But what I do know is the story of Thomas meeting the resurrected Christ that so many of us heard our pastors preach about last week couldn’t have been timed more perfectly.
Now most of us have been taught to think about that story as a lesson on doubt and to be sure it is. But what if there is more going on there? What if Jesus’ scars are actually themselves good news and not just a test of faith?
I’ve always found it fascinating that the resurrected Jesus bears any scars at all. After all, if God is capable of raising Jesus from the dead, why not give him a perfectly new body?
Why stick Jesus with a scar covered body for all eternity?
Why leave the holes in his hands and the marks of mockery across his head for everyone in heaven to see?
Why at the end of all things does Revelation say that when Jesus returns he still bears those scars as if he were a slaughtered lamb?
Maybe it’s a sign that our pain matters to God.
Maybe it’s a sign that our suffering doesn’t go overlooked or ignored by God, nor does God pretend it never happened – even in eternity.
Maybe it’s a sign that our story is God’s story. That God bears our scars. That as the psalmist once wrote, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, even when we feel all alone, foreseeably separated from our friends and loved ones in the face of a deadly enemy, God is still there with us.
Our pain matters to God because our pain is God’s pain.
Our scars matter to God because our scars are God’s scars.
Our feelings of abandonment are God’s feelings of abandonment because God was once abandoned to death too.
I don’t know why God hasn’t miraculously created a vaccine for the coronavirus. I don’t know why a God who can create the universe doesn’t seem to be able to end our pain and suffering right now, immediately in the moment when we want it or need it most.
But I do believe.
I believe our pain matters to God.
I believe God suffers with us.
I believe each of the tens of thousands of people who have died and millions more who have suffered matter to God.
I believe God will somehow, someway see us through this valley of sickness, death, unemployment, and despair.
I believe because God bears the scars of someone who has already through that valley and come out alive on the other side.
Not unscathed or unhurt or unscarred, but alive.
The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult. The coming weeks and months don’t promise to be much easier.
And while I can’t tell you why God doesn’t snap God’s fingers and make all of the pain and suffering magically go away, I can tell you with confidence that God is with us.
God is with us in the hands of the healthcare workers doing everything they can to heal the sick and alleviate the pain of the suffering.
God is with us in the minds of scientists, doctors, and researchers frantically searching for a cure.
God is with us at the assembly lines in factories creating desperately needed PPE.
God is with us whenever we come together with our neighbors and loved ones during Zoom meetings and Facetime calls and live-streamed church services. God is there when face masks are sewn for others and whenever food and toilet paper and paper towels are shared with those in need. God is there in each and every moment when the love of God is incarnated in the midst of suffering and need.
We are not alone.
God is with us. God has been with us. And God will continue to be with us long after we walk out of this crazy, scary, lonely valley of despair.