I wasn’t anywhere near the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 when the Boxing Day Tsunami killed over 230,00 people in costal communities across India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and ten other countries. I wasn’t anywhere near the epicenter, but the events of that day rocked my faith forever.
As I watched news footage of women clinging to photographs of their dead children, dazed fishermen trying to find words for what happened, bodies washing ashore, and children wandering the streets, I found myself struggling to pray. What good would it do anyway? Why should my prayers for healing be answered when all those frantic prayers for survival went unheard? What kind of all-loving, all-powerful God would let this happen to begin with?
I had so many questions.
One of the first to propose an answer was a popular Reformed theologian who wrote an article claiming that God sent the tsunami as an act of judgment against sin. When I raised some questions about this position, my friends told me I was too emotional, too sensitive—that I couldn’t let my “humanistic tendencies” cloud the plain and simple fact that these people got what they deserved; they got what we all deserved, in fact. God sent the tsunami to reveal his might, they said, to remind us of how very angry he is with humanity.
So God would drown little children to make a point?
And so began a dark and frightening period of doubt that would forever change the course of my faith journey.
People tried to help. They bought me apologetic books. They sent me articles. They searched the Bible for answers to all my questions. And while I’ve come to appreciate their goodwill in those efforts, what I really needed at the time was for someone to come alongside me and say, “I don’t know. There aren’t easy answers. This troubles me too.”
I didn’t need answers. I needed a friend.
I’ve tried to be that friend to others now that I’ve grown accustomed to doubt and more receptive to the role that it plays in refining and strengthening faith. I blog. I write books. I travel around the country exchanging survival stories with people on a similar journey.
In Kent Annan I have found a kindred spirit. After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken describes in poignant detail Annan’s struggle to make sense of his faith in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake of 2010. As a longtime friend of Haiti and co-director of Haiti Partners, Annan sees the victims of the earthquake as human beings—not merely statistics and not merely theological issues—which frees him to tell his story with compassion and humor, color and honesty.
It is a raw, beautiful, and courageous book—one that gives new life and light to the questions so many of us struggle with in silence
When our faith is rocked, we don’t need answers. We need friends.
And sometimes, after a long conversation, a hearty laugh, or a good cry, we catch a glimpse of truth in the corner of our eye.
Rachel Held Evans is the author of Evolving in Monkey Town: How A Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions (Zondervan, 2010). She blogs athttp://rachelheldevans.com.
Visit the Patheos Book Club for more resources on After Shock: Searching For Honest Faith When Your World is Shaken.