We encounter grave injustices in our lives. This can be truly disheartening to many who would look toward the goodness of God and think, “How can a just and good God allow this terrible wrong to happen?” This is a question that I have often faced in my own work in my Indigenous community.Whether it is an individual struggling to come to terms with personal tragedy in their lives or whole communities facing the difficult reality of oppressive systems—it is easy to see why anyone would question where God is in that situation. In our own community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, we’re grappling with our history as an Indian boarding school, one which, like hundreds of others, sought to rid Indigenous children of their culture and language. The boarding schools across the country were one part of a system that allowed for great injustices to occur against children already so vulnerable and away from their homes and families. Where was God in all of this?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to a man seeking healing for his ill son, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” It is a reminder for us that we cannot always expect miracles to know God’s presence. He challenges us to believe even when the signs and wonders do not appear. And yet, where do we find God in the depths of our darkest experiences? Especially of injustice when a miracle feels like the only way out?
I have felt the greatest strength in recognizing that it is my own anger against injustice where God is showing Himself. Our desire to see wrongs righted, our yearning for good to come amidst tragedy—these are the ways in which God reminds us that He is near. God is in our desire for reconciliation and in our calls for justice. God is present in the doubt felt by the perpetrators of harm and He is behind us when we push for our humanity. It is easy to forget that in its own way, these are the signs and wonders we’ve been waiting for all along.
- Reflect upon a way in which you find God in the depths of darkness, or in the face of grave injustice. In what ways might you be missing the “signs and wonders we’ve been waiting for?”
Maka Black Elk is the executive director for Truth and Healing at Red Cloud Indian School. He graduated from Red Cloud in 2005 and returned as a teacher and later as an administrator in 2013 before taking on his current role.