The Netflix series, House of Cards, opens with these words:
There are two kinds of pain — the sort of pain that makes you strong and useless pain, the sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things. Moments like this require someone who will act, do the unpleasant thing, the necessary thing.
Such is a politician’s view on suffering. They play God.
Silence by Shusaku Endo upends every firmly-held belief you’ve ever had on suffering and what it means to love God. The book takes place in 17th century Japan, a time when Christianity had been outlawed. Christians were being rounded up and tortured until they apostatized. Father Rodrigues, a Portuguese priest, makes his way into Japan where he witnesses and experiences unspeakable suffering.
Over the past week I have received an email, basically the same one, from several different people asking for prayer for the Christians in Syria. The email draws on quotes from emails from missionaries in Syria. Here are two excerpts:
We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically…
…ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents….
Unspeakable suffering. I cannot imagine what it is to watch your child beheaded for Christ.
Where is God in the midst of this? Why is He silent?
The immediate feeling is that we must do something, and surely we must. Like Frank Underwood (in House of Cards), we feel like we need ” someone who will act, do the unpleasant thing, the necessary thing.”
The bigger battle, though, is an unseen one, a spiritual one. The obvious choices for the battle we see may not be the right choices for the real war. Plus, I would posit that there is no useless pain, only pain we wish we didn’t have to deal with.
At his darkest moment, Father Rodrigues hears Christ say,
…It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into the world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.
Silence is a book that raises more questions than it answers. It answers questions in disturbing ways. It is a book that will stay with me, or anyone who dares to read it, for a long, long time.
A better write-up, and what led me to this book in the first place, is “The Harrowing Silence: A Book Recommendation” by Pete Peterson at the Rabbit Room.