Where is God When It Hurts? by Albert Y. Hsu

Family and Community Ministries, 25(1), 19-­‐29

Helen Harris

Albert Hsu begins most of the chapters in Grieving a Suicide with a question. That is appropriate given the thundering pain and questions when survivors deal with the aftermath of the suicide of someone they love. In Chapter 8, the author takes on a question commonly found both in grief literature and in the literature of major religions. Where is God when it hurts? Where is God when I hurt? If God is God and if God cares for me, how could a powerful and caring God allow this to happen?

Hsu begins answering this question with the story of two soldiers during World War II: one a Jewish resistance fighter who survived Auschwitz to later kill himself; the other a German Nazi who became a Christian theologian. One saw the horrors of the world and despaired. One saw the possibilities of God in the world and found hope. Hsu explains the difference by discussing the importance of our awareness of the suffering of God, i.e. the capacity of God to feel completely with us and for us.

God is then, says Hsu, not a removed God who lets bad things happen to us, but a loving God who allows free will to play out and then walks with us through the pain. “The only possible solution to the suffering of humanity is that God exists and has taken suffering upon himself” )Hsu, 2002, p. 120). How then do we understand our sense of abandonment in such circumstances? Hsu turns to the writing of CS Lewis and notes “God’s seeming absence during grief is simply because of the traumatic nature of grief”
(p. 121).

The author relates two apparently paradoxical biblical stories from the Gospel of Luke. The first is the story of Jesus not returning with his parents at the end of the Passover in Jerusalem. In this instance, they thought he was with them; he was not. The second is the story of the pilgrims on the road to Emmaus. They thought Jesus, who had been crucified was not with them; he in fact was. Hsu concludes that God is with us when our pain is deepest, even when we do not know it. “In our grief and loss, Jesus comes alongside us. He is not intrusive, but he is available to break bread with us and rekindle our hope”
(Hsu, 2002, p. 122).

Hsu, A. Y. (2002). Grieving a suicide: A loved one’s search for comfort, answer & hope.
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Books.

Dr. Helen Harris is a Senior Lecturer in the Baylor School of Social Work where she teaches Advanced Practice and Loss and Mourning. Dr. Harris’ professional experience includes 8 years in residential child care and 13 years in hospice work.

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