Last month, someone sent me a couple books. One was, The Inward Journey by Gene Edwards. The book is a work of theological imagination. A young man, Chris (short for “Christian”), finds himself thrust into a painful season. As Chris cries and prays one day, he has a series of visions guided by a figure named Messenger. These visions begin to address a fundamental question: “Why is there suffering in life?” More to the point, “Why is there suffering in *my* life?
The first vision arrested my attention. It was a slap of perspective, right upside the head. In the last year, I have experienced a lot of pain and grief. But, contrary to how we feel when suffering, painful seasons are not about us—not ultimately. Thankfully, there is something beyond us. This is the message of Chris’s first vision. What follows is an excerpt from it.
Messenger was robed in something white that radiated a soft light, his form only partially discernible within the glow; nonetheless, Chris could see that his hand was raised and he was pointing.
“That way. We shall travel that way,” he said as they began moving into the non-darkness that stretched before them. “We are all that there is. Neither time, eternity, nor creation has yet begun. Yet, even we are but guests here, and that only for the moment.” […]
“What is that light ahead?” came the startled words of Christian, for it seemed nothing could exist here.
“You have asked, ‘Why all this pain? What is its purpose? Why is it allowed?’” said Messenger, turning full round to face the young man. Uneasy and quite unsure of himself, as though he had caused some major problem with his question, Chris stumbled a reply.
“Yes, but they aren’t entirely my questions. I’m taking this class…and…” Christian stopped speaking; such words were absurd here. “I am confused, though,” he added more realistically.
“Then let us move toward that light. There you will find an answer. Perhaps it will not be the answer to your…or their…questions. But you will find…” Messenger paused and looked intently into young Christian’s eyes. “We are at the edge. We are very nearby to beginning.”
“Is that light…uh…beginning?”
“No. That is something before the beginning. Before angels, before the heavenlies, before all realms. Before man, earth, skies, time, and space. Before all. All, except suffering and pain.”
“They are here? Before anything?”
“Before anything,” said Messenger, his voice fading. […]
“Just beyond the light, there is something else out there. Isn’t there a boundary?” Chris asked.
“No,” replied Messenger. “There is nothing else, nor can there be, until there is first that…” Messenger pointed again in the direction of the light. “That must be before all things. That and pain, that and suffering were before even the beginnings…nor could there have been anything…unless…” Messenger fell silent.
Cautiously, Christian moved forward. Plainly, there was something lying out there before him.
“Oh, no. Oh, no. No,” cried Christian. “No, no, please, no!” he cried again as he dropped to his knees. Just before him, lying in a pool of blood, lay the cold, dead, and mangled form of a snow-white lamb. For, “He was slain before the foundation of the world.”