I was asked again recently why, if he loves us, God allows us to suffer. There are whole libraries of books dedicated to this question, and over two thousand years many theoretical, theological approaches have been developed. But theories and theology feel thin and insubstantial when we are grieving for people we have loved. Comfort is more readily to be found in the experience we have of God’s love in our lives, love which we may have encountered directly in prayer and contemplation or, more often, simply expressed through the love of the people we journey with through life.

I will share one observation. Not from a theologian, but from the cosmologist Stephen Hawking. In his famous book ‘The Brief History of Time’ he wrote “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”

As best we can tell, for us to be here as human beings, with consciousness and free will – for life to exist at all – the laws of the physical universe have to be as they are. It is these same laws that govern natural disasters and the processes of disease, ageing and death. This seems to be the cosmic bargain. The forces that give us physical life will also take it.

If that were all we would have something of an answer, but very little comfort or satisfaction. But our being is not limited to this physical universe. Christians believe in a God outside space and time who loves us so much he enters into his own creation to suffer and die like us, to show us the promise of resurrection and to bring us the gift of eternal life with him.

This God of hope walks with us on every step of our journey through this life, and beyond. We can choose whether to take his hand.

Rev. Peter Wright