“God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
In the macabre silence that had fallen among the convicts on the hill of Calvary, perhaps at the same time as the sinister darkness of noon settled in, a heavy cry tore the silence and hearts of those who heard its echoes centuries later: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The Son of God was dying hanging between Earth and Heaven. Humiliated and put to death by the multitudes who, not long before, had adored Him for His profound teaching and for the healings He had done for many, Christ now felt the absolute loneliness of nothingness, agonizing apart from the Father and, in a mysterious way, separated from Himself. However, even though His Son no longer felt His presence, God was at the cross, in the fullness of His power, overcoming sin as never before.
Even though Christ’s heart could no longer perceive it, God’s love for Him remained unchanged in those hours of torture in which mankind’s destiny depended on His obedience. With all bridges between Him and the Father broken, with all His senses dictating that He was speaking in vain, Jesus makes one last and priceless declaration of faith, crying out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He then fades away.
A tragicomedy for mocking passers-by, an emotional wound for the disciples. No one in the world really understood what had happened on the cross, but those who later understood were shocked, like the apostle Paul, who wrote that “the message of the cross is (…) the power of God.” But—because between what had happened there and what he had heard, was a chasm that could only be bridged by grace received from God (spiritual thinking)—Paul acknowledged, at the same time, that the idea of God’s self-sacrifice is “foolishness” “to the Gentiles”  and a “stumbling block”  (endless controversy) for the Jews.
Nevertheless, all of Christ’s disciples unreservedly invested their lives to the last drop in the service of explaining and promoting this foolishness—a sign that the meaning of that “foolishness” made any sacrifice worthwhile. But how could it be that the supreme power of God was hidden in the desolate (up to the point of despair) picture of the crucifixion? American theologian Timothy Keller explains that on the cross, God’s ultimate triumph over evil becomes visible because the cross is the ultimate example of how God brings good out of evil.
The death of the One about whom God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” was the consequence of the evil that had escalated to the point of killing the Creator—an indisputable manifestation of injustice and the abject nature of evil. Absolutely innocent, Christ took our place, that of those who have fraternized with evil, and offered Himself up as spoils of war in the cosmic conflict between God and Evil so that, once stripped of any trace of legitimacy, Evil could be defeated forever.
Therefore, surprisingly, the cross was not only the crime scene, but, at the same time, a monument to Good, a sacred hymn about the character of the God who accepted the crushing of all that was most precious and pure to Him, of all that was best in the entire universe: His Son, part of Himself.
Trying to find meaning after his son died at the age of 14 of progeria, the American rabbi Harold S. Kushner wrote—giving a voice to all those who tragically lost something more precious than words can express—“How seriously would we take a person who said, ‘I have faith in Adolf Hitler, or in John Dillinger. I can’t explain why they did the things they did, but I can’t believe they would have done them without a good reason’? Yet people try to justify the deaths and tragedies God inflicts on innocent victims with almost these same words.”
Kushner concluded that disappointment, rejection, suffering, and death could not coexist with a good and omnipotent God. Since he loved his religion, he could not bear to give it up altogether, but adopted a modified theology that attracted much criticism from other theologians because it essentially denies God’s omnipotence. What matters, however, is not his theology, but its catalyst. Like countless others in history, Kushner has been crushed by suffering.
You can’t expect a crushed man to paint reality in true colours, just as you can’t expect a soldier to return home after seeing the horrors of war and enjoy a football game the following day, even if before the war he was a sports enthusiast. No one returns happy from war, not even they are on the winning side. Sometimes the trauma of the veteran is so great that they need specialized help to simply learn to accept life once again, after death has dominated their reality.
In countless cases, the human condition is similar to that of a soldier suffering from war trauma: we may be physically intact or disabled as a result of an illness, but just as easily torn inwardly by the injustice and suffering we ourselves or those around us experience. In a treacherous way, life sometimes hurts us even with the good other experience, throwing us into existential confusion when—comparing destinies and trying to understand, like Rabbi Kushner, “Why bad things happen to good people?”—we don’t really understand anything anymore.
The movie Room (2015) tells the story of a teenage girl, kidnapped by a psychopath, who manages to escape from captivity, together with her son, born out of a rape in the tiny room where she had been locked for seven years. A scene after the release of the two shows the young woman unable to come to peace with what happened to her.
Browsing through her high school album and looking at photos of her former classmates, she asks her son, as from inertia: “Do you know what happened to them? (…) Exactly: nothing. Nothing happened to them…” Suffering can have a much greater impact when it is not evenly distributed. A world in which everyone suffers the same, at the same time, would probably be a world that would much more easily show solidarity against evil.
Evil is, by definition, unjust. And suffering is too often inevitable. Not because God has no will or power to eliminate it, but because the process of eradicating evil takes time. An anthropomorphic image is that of neutralizing a bomb. Although the defusing techniques are secret, for security reasons, a non-specific procedure is known: after neutralization, one must wait for a certain period of time to certify the safety of the procedure.
However, if in the case of defusing a bomb, the operator is located as far away as possible from the explosive object, in the spiritual realm, the Bible provides a different description of God. The cross shows that God is involved in an insurmountable way, descending into misery, and suffering with man. Therefore, looking at the cross, we cannot see God as a Hitler, as Kushner was tempted to see Him, even if the sufferings of men today seem to be nothing more than a variant of the Holocaust.
Looking at the cross, we may not know exactly why suffering still lasts, but we can be sure that it is not something that God is indifferent about. It is not, as Kushner put it, a “remnant of chaos” of an imperfect creation that we humans must get rid of. At the cross, we see God suffering alongside us and for us. We see Him with us in the gas chamber. Foolish? For eyes blinded by pain, perhaps. But it is a saving kind of foolishness.
Alina Kartman majored in Communications and Public Relations, but opted for a career in journalism. Having published more than 1,500 pieces of writing over her 13 years of media activity, Alina has senior editorial experience. She is part of the team who advanced semneletimpului.ro, the platform for the Signs of the Times magazine in Romania. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Programs and Investment Management.