Our culture loves superheroes. I am a Marvel girl, myself, but I’ll still give a nod to those misguided DC loyalists. That is meant jest of course, but simply the idea that there is someone out there- a team of saviors- ready to rescue us from pain caused by those who misuse their power, is a concept we idealize whichever fan base we fall into. Our hearts long for rescue. Everything from the “be your own hero” themed movements and campaigns to the very names our fantastical heroes are given speak to that aching desire. We want to be avenged and have a priced exacted from pain inflicted. We want our notion of justice to be upheld and a hand to maintain the balance of good and evil. It is likely because we have all, to varying degrees, experienced pain, harm, injustice, or humiliation. We have all witnessed or been party to situations where righteousness and innocence fall to the brutality of evil. In those moments we long for a champion. Some receive their version of a hero, others don’t. It seems arbitrary and unfair.
There is an undeniable truth we can hope in. We have all been given a Savior; that is the glorious and Good News of the Gospel. We have Jesus Christ. He is our Champion. In that delight, we must also come to recognize our Savior is not a superhero.
I am prone to ask all those “off-limits” questions to God. The ones no “good Christian” should wrestle with. This week I had one of those conversations with God, as I tearfully demanded He explain Himself. “You say You are near the brokenhearted, where are you when their hearts were being broken? You say You are an ever-present help, where are You when the innocent are being hurt. Where are You? What good are Your promises after the fact- once all the damage has been afflicted and we will forever bear the scars.” Yes, it was one of those ugly dialogues. In my heart I knew the answers, I just don’t like them.
I know mankind allowed sin to enter the perfect world God created. Since that moment, we have been subject to the reality of ongoing cycles of sin and brokenness. Romans 5:19 confirms that “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” Under that truth no one deserves or could earn salvation, redemption, or divine rescue. We were all a part of the very system that causes us torment. At times I don’t want to hear that. I want a superhero; a god of my own making that does as I command and accepts my moral compass as his own. That’s not who God is, that’s not what the Bible promises. But when my heart stills, I find comfort in the fact that I have been truly been given some much more than the box what I am trying to condense God into. Romans 8: 26-28 gives us this assurance, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God is present in those painful and traumatic moments. He corrected the separation, which humanity brought upon itself. Romans 5:19 goes on to say, “so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” He redeemed us through the brutal and priceless sacrifice of Christ. God made a way available to us in which we could be set apart from the sinful world we find ourselves. He did so in order that He could be with us in our pain and heartache. He further chose to be the Savior of the abused just as equally as the abusers because both are casualties of the sinful world they are born into. It isn’t the vengeance I want; it is justice beyond what I can fathom. He is God and I am reminded in Isaiah 55:8 that His ways are higher than mine. He sets a clear and just law that opens redemption for all. My skin prickles at this fact sometimes, but we have all sinned against someone else. The Apostle John, bluntly states if we say we are without sin we are liars (1 John 1:8). No one could be justified if any barriers existed. Our sinful nature would condemn us every time. Thus God, in His mercy, removed all hindrances.
He doesn’t do this out of ignorance of the horrors of this world. The weight and agony we feel has been felt by our Savior. Isaiah 53 recounts the pain Christ experienced as a God in human form. It was not dampened by His divinity. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. He doesn’t theorize about pain, He knows it through experience. He further knows our individual suffering intimately and advocates on our behalf. Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He draws us near to Himself for comfort when damage is being done and in the aftermath. His love and grace cover us. His presence strengthens us and empowers us. In John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We have been invited to be in a relationship with Him, not to be exempt from pain, but victors in the midst of it.
Superheroes don’t see all and can’t save all. They have casualties and failures. They are of our own creation with human frailties (even the alien ones) and they fade away. We have someone real. He doesn’t swoop in, save us, and swoop out leaving us once again vulnerable. He will be with us always. Even in the darkest moments of life. While we can never fully know God’s ways we can trust in His love for us.
In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9