“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” - Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (also, see Genesis 32)
Wandering around, we see “the hand of horror on everything,” as Hurston wrote. The hand of horror has waved through the land like a Category 5 storm, leaving destruction everywhere.
Why does evil seem to be winning?
Theodicy invites us into the struggle. It compels us to ask God just that. “What are you up to and why are you letting this happen?” And if our answer is too glib, we’re not struggling with God enough.
Just before his evening struggle with a stranger, Jacob was in the crisis of his life. He fell on his knees and he prayed! Jacob remembered God’s promise to do something good for him, but the promise felt empty.
Do you remember the storm? The storm that changed everything in the story?
“Six eyes were questioning God.”
The answer for Jacob? It was just on the horizon. At the break of day.
The answer for the people in the storm? It was just through the door. But only they could see.
Can’t nobody see God for you.
What do we call this place in the struggle? Where we wish and hope and pray so desperately for the knowledge and fortitude to see what’s right and next? For Jacob, that place was called “Penuel,” meaning “face of God.” In the struggle, Jacob saw God’s face in a way he never had before.
Which means: there is a place we go in the struggle where we can perceive God with more clarity and truth than we possibly could anywhere else. Or, as Hurston put it, “They seemed to be staring at the dark. But their eyes were watching God.”
You may feel like you’re staring into the dark. And you are.
Because the eyes of your heart are watching God. Right there in that darkness. In what seems like an abyss.
O God, keep my spirit watching you. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.