We’ve all heard it, the age old question: why does God allow evil and suffering in the world? Nothing makes this question more relevant than the present experience of pain. There is brokenness in this world, some call it sin—the point is that things are not as they should be. At least, that is the opinion of the Text, the Tanakh, the Bible, Holy Scripture.
The Jews, similarly convinced of the brokenness of the world, gave us the idea of “tikkun olam,” that is, “fixing the world.” The world is in distress. When this distress comes into our view and we open our mouths to ask God, “Where are You?” He replies to us, “I am here; where are you?” Thus, it is our responsibility and privilege to partner with God to bring healing to this fractured world.*
I have recently been brought to a heightened awareness of the brokenness around me through my struggles this summer to find steady work, to make just enough to pay rent and buy food, only to then be entrusted with more challenges—insurance payments and auto repair bills. It’s a veritable cacophony of people exclaiming that you owe them, that you’re in debt to them. If only I could flay myself open, lay my life bare before each one and show them that I’ve not been irresponsible. Your good intentions, however, mean nothing in a consumer society… doesn’t that strike you odd? Competition means someone loses, and I’ve been losing a lot lately. Perhaps, at least in my thought life, I find a little bit of the brokenness of the world within myself.
So in the midst of the brokenness, I ask God, “Where are You?” and He responds to me, “I am here; walk with Me.” God is the only person wholly outside of brokenness, yet He chooses to be affected by our broken world by loving us. I believe that as we choose to walk with God in the midst of the broken world and let this very real problem enter into us as our responsibility, we will find the wholeness of God restoring our broken world. Yet, before we can see the wholeness of God, we must first be confronted with the utter brokenness of the world and feel the painful despair of knowing that we are powerless to fix it. That’s why we partner with God to fix it. He has the power, and He has asked us to represent Him.
*Credit for this thought goes to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He has several books full of deep spiritual and philosophical insight.