Crooked Lines

Written By


Ted Bundy, the serial killer, after his arrest, could not fathom the fuss.  What was the big deal?  David Von Drehle quotes an exasperated Bundy in Among the Lowest of the Dead: “I mean, there are so many people.”
– Annie Dillard.

There is something amiss in our world. What else can be said when every day testifies to unspeakable anguish, misery, and suffering? The sense of discord is inescapable.

We know that it is not right that people should hurl themselves into the path of screeching trains, that children should be choked and beaten at the hands of their parents, that the poor should starve in a world where there is excess. We might lull our intellect into believing that good and evil is nothing more than human construct, subject to the mere preferences of culture and society, but when our own eyes bear witness to horrific devastation and atrocities, we can slumber no longer.

The effects of evil haunt us, wound us, and scar us. Suffering is not solely an external phenomenon, something that only happens to others. Suffering is also deeply personal; it is blind to our upbringing, social status, and culture—no one is immune.

An undetected heart condition steals the life of your best friend.

Lies and unfaithfulness wrench apart two lives intertwined in marriage.

Knifelike words slash worse than sticks or stones.

A father intimidates and pressures, withholding his love and approval.

Cancer ravages the body of a beloved child.

Certainly, not all suffering is a direct result of injustice. Yet often, we are not just victims; we are actors too—we respond to evil with evil, not good. Some of us, fearful of further hurt, detach ourselves from life and crawl behind frail walls of self-protection. Or perhaps we become cynical, embittered by life and disappointment, unable to feel compassion for the pain of others. Or we might lash out at others, inflicting pain to escape our own. Or maybe we rely on narcotics and feel-good entertainment to forget our troubles, if only for a little while. We let our pain justify our actions. We don’t want to admit our complicity in the perpetuation of evil.

If humanity could somehow perfect itself–somehow fix itself–you’d think we would have done so by now. But history has only proven our inadequacy and inability. No amount of education, awareness, technological advancement, medication, or positive thinking has stemmed the tide. It’s as though we don’t know how to live, as though all of humanity is bent toward destruction. Often, it seems, the problem is us.

And at some point, we wonder: Is suffering just an extraneous detail the cosmos has no care for? Are evil and injustice simply cogs in the wheel of life from which there is no refuge?

The world at large does not blink at our suffering. We are only numbers. Statistics. Cosmic accidents. Mere happenstance. In such a world, suffering is absurd—inevitable, but meaningless.

And yet, when face-to-face with suffering, everything within us screams otherwise.

Our experience contradicts our philosophy. If reality does not change, then, as author C. S. Lewis discovered, our understanding of it must:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. [. . .] Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense.

Our craving for enduring justice signifies our need for a source of justice, our need for God and for a Saviour.

No one knows the reality of suffering better than Jesus Christ.

He left the comfort of his own kingdom to enter into the devastation of our world. Though innocent, he was betrayed, abandoned, and put to death. His body was battered and then nailed to the cross.

More often than not, we are responsible for the injustice on this earth; we are the ones who deserve punishment. And yet, Jesus died in our place—this is a manifestation of grace: that God would pay the ultimate price for justice, the cost of our wrongdoing, on our behalf. God’s love and grace toward us are not abstract sentimentalities—they cost him dearly. He agonized on the cross that we might be forgiven and declared blameless.

My craving for justice is met in the person of Jesus Christ. In the midst of his own suffering, God showed his love and desire for justice. His love is transformative, changing the way I respond to evil and injustice. Moreover, God knows my suffering; it is not absurd or inconsequential. I may not know all the answers, but I do not despair because I know Jesus.

He is trustworthy. He is sufficient. And, one day, he will set all things right.