The Parable of the Stranger

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The most telling argument against the Judeo-Christian understanding of the world is the silence of God.
Prayers go unanswered.  Children get sick and die.  Dictators drag their countries into meaningless wars.  Natural disasters claim thousands of lives.
I recently had lunch with a friend who has had enough.  The last two years of his life have included a series of brutal disappointments.  “I’m through with God,” he said.  “There is no God.  How can there be a God when so many reckless, painful, and absurd things keep happening, and no ‘God’ ever intervenes to do anything about it?”
This experience is so common that you would think the Bible would have something to say about it.
Both Old and New Testaments, in fact, have a great deal to say about God’s apparent silence, absence, and indifference. 
Not only that, but history’s most ferocious critics of Christianity – including Voltaire, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, and Friedrich Nietzsche – have not been able to come up with anything more edgy than the bitter complaints voiced by some of the Bible’s key characters.  
Job, in the throes of suffering, declares, “From the city the dying groan, and the throat of the wounded cries for help.  Yet God pays no attention to their prayer” (Job 24:12).  The psalmist moans, “Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?  You have taken from me friend and neighbor – darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:14, 18).  God’s own Son cries from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
How can we reasonably assert that God is not only really there but actually cares about human beings?
Pat answers will never do.
The philosopher Basil Mitchel shines a fresh light on this issue by means of his parable of the resistance fighter and the Stranger:
In time of war in an occupied country, a member of the resistance meets one night a stranger who deeply impresses him.  They spend that night together in conversation.  The Stranger tells the partisan that he himself is on the side of the resistance – indeed, he is in command of it, and urges the partisan to have faith in him no matter what happens.  The partisan is utterly convinced at that meeting of the Stranger’s sincerity and constancy and undertakes to trust him.
They never meet in conditions of intimacy again.  But sometimes the Stranger is seen helping members of the resistance, and the partisan is grateful and says to his friends, “He is on our side.”  Sometimes he is seen in the uniform of the police handing over patriots to the occupying power.  On these occasions his friends murmur against him.  But the partisan still says, “He is on our side.”
He still believes that, in spite of appearances, the Stranger did not deceive him.  Sometimes he asks the Stranger for help and receives it.  He is then thankful.  Sometimes he asks and does not receive it.  Then he says, “The Stranger knows best.”
For those with a complacent faith, the problem of pain can seem like a spiritual dealbreaker.  
But if we become convinced on other grounds that God is very real indeed – that an exquisitely designed cosmos reveals the work of a Creator; that the historical evidence for the resurrection is (in a word) spectacular; and that God can be intimately encountered through our own experiences of miracles, answered prayers, and personal life changes – then it’s reasonable to conclude that God, like the Stranger in Mitchell’s parable, best knows how to manage the universe. 
To put it another way, very often I don’t know why things happen as they do.
But I do know why I trust God – and God knows why.  
That doesn’t take the pain way.
But it draws me into a deeper connection with the God who has promised that one day he will wipe away every tear.