As Australia moves on from Easter and into national debates around the Voice of Parliament, we cannot help but contemplate affliction. The affliction of our First Nations people is in our faces, confronting us with the brutal reality of their mistreatment, abuse and abandonment.
Stan Grant, Q+A presenter on the ABC and Aboriginal Christian man, has felt this abandonment. It is, as philosopher and Christian mystic Simone Weil puts it, ‘the chill of indifference’. Grant feels this in how his people were treated by white man, how their land was invaded and God seemed absent, and how it has shaken his faith to the core.*
This affliction, this chill of indifference, is felt by anyone who has been shunned by society: the poor, the sick (I hear you), the LGBQTI+ community, the homeless, those addicted to substances, those in the minority.
This chill of indifference is felt by anyone shunned by society.
And it shakes our faith to the core. ‘Where is God?’ we cry, demanding respite from our suffering, demanding answers to our pleas.
Sometimes there is no respite. Sometimes answers are not forthcoming. And we feel abandoned.
Grant has felt the chill of indifference around the Voice of Parliament debates and the suffering of his people. It prompted this response: ‘Is God just? This question has taken me to the darkest depths of my soul. And there in my abandonment I know I am not alone. At Easter I look to the meaning of the cross. Jesus died a death of affliction: my God, why have you forsaken me?’
Miracle of miracles, Jesus experienced the same abandonment by God at the cross that some of us live with daily. Jesus was faced with terrible and terrifying affliction, and it presented him with a choice: carry on or give up. He chose to take our suffering upon himself. Imagine that! The affliction of the world, the chill of indifference, came upon him. And it is on him still: the world continues to reject him, in spite of all he has done.
Jesus chose to take our suffering upon himself. Imagine that!
Jesus’ choice mirrors the decision I face in my own affliction: will I surrender to hopelessness or reach for hope? Regardless of our politics, regardless of which way we will vote in the Voice of Parliament, we all must choose between despair and hope, between reaching for God and turning away.
I have chosen despair far too many times. But Easter has reminded me of the possibilities afforded by Christ: the hope of redemption, the all-surpassing love of God, and the assurance that God does not in fact leave us to suffer alone, but suffers right along with us.
God suffers right along with us.
Though Easter might be past, I pray Jesus will continue to walk right alongside you in whatever you might have to face.
*Stan Grant, 9 April 2023, ‘As we debate the Voice, I can’t think of a more profound meditation than affliction’, ABC News, ABC, viewed 14 April 2023, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-04-09/voice-referendum-mediation-on-affliction/102139832