Among the most beautiful of the Beatles songs, “Let it Be” looks at hard times, broken hearts, and the general difficulty of life. The opening verse expresses a sort of comfort that comes in hard times from mother Mary, who is Paul McCartney’s mother, not the mother of Jesus.
When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me . . .
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Mother Mary comforts by “speaking words of wisdom.” The words of wisdom are “Let it be.” According to Paul McCartney, he wrote this song after he had been “overdoing it” (presumably on drugs). He went to bed feeling troubled and had a dream where his deceased mother came and told him that “everything is going to be ok” and to just “let it be.” McCartney goes on to describe the comfort that he felt from those words.1
And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be. . .
. . .And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
The song expresses a hope that there will be an answer and that light will still break through. For those who are broken-hearted, persecuted, or down-trodden there will be an answer, things will work out, everything will be ok.
Who has not felt the evil and injustice in the world and wondered why we must go through it? Who hasn’t cried out for an answer to suffering and trouble? Who hasn’t longed to hear those words of comfort, “It’s all going to be ok?” Perhaps that is what makes the song so moving and comforting to many. We are encouraged to take a deep breath, let our minds rest, and just let things be.
What is the Answer?
I will be the first to say that I really like this song. It is lyrically pleasant and musically beautiful. But the song does leave us with a bit of a question. If we are to just “let it be” because “there is still a light” and “there will be an answer,” what is the answer and what is the light? The song doesn’t address these questions; instead, it leaves our questions, fears, and troubles unanswered. We are told that it will all just work out.
In his book Evil and the Justice of God N. T. Wright addresses the problem of evil. Why is there evil and suffering? What is God’s answer? Unfortunately, Wright argues, we’ve have often turned this merely into a logical puzzle to solve.2 Logical arguments and discussions about the problem of evil are no doubt interesting and useful, but they often leave us more confused than before. We might have a logical answer to the problem of evil, but what do we do when we see wars, famine, and suffering around the world; difficulties and failures in our own lives; and poverty, broken homes, and crime all around us? In the midst of this life, the logical answers often seem cold.
Some see the problem of evil—and the dissatisfying nature of many logical answers to the problem of evil—as an argument against Christianity; however, it is ultimately a problem that every worldview must answer. The Secular worldview says that it’s all up to us. Working together we can make the world a better place. We can end poverty, suffering, and hate if we just become more tolerant and loving. This doctrine, however, has been proven to be patently false. On their own steam, humans are not capable of fixing all of the problems in the world, and attempting to do so without reference to God or morality has often left the world worse than it was before. N. T. Wright shrewdly observes that, even if we could fix it all on our own, it would do nothing for the people throughout the rest of history who have experienced suffering. It is not an answer for them.3
Another attempt at an answer comes from the New Age movement (aka New Spirituality). However, by eliminating the distinction between good and evil, downplaying the physical, and making suffering illusory, the New Age movement is left defenseless against evil. According to this view, our pain and suffering we bring on ourselves, we need not bother about others’ pain because it is their karma. In the end, we must just “let it be.” But try telling that to someone suffering from cancer, or to a starving child. Though most New Agers are probably charitable in practice, their worldview does not provide the resources to deal with evil. They must borrow an answer from elsewhere.
The real answer, as N. T. Wright suggests, comes not when we look at the problem of evil as a puzzle to solve, but rather, when we look at what God has done and is doing about evil. “Our primary task,” he says, “is not so much to give answers to impossible philosophical questions as to bring signs of God’s new world to birth on the basis of Jesus’ death and in the power of his Spirit, even in the midst of the ‘present evil age.’”4
The Christian answer is that God has done something about evil by sending his son, Jesus, to come and experience the full weight of evil on the cross—bearing the sin and the suffering of the whole world on his shoulders, removing the grip of death over us by rising from the dead. Because of this, we are empowered as his children to take the good news of God’s Kingdom to the world—the good news of forgiveness of sins, freedom from bondage, and new life in Christ. And the new life begins now. Rather than just “letting things be,” Christians are to be on the move, doing something about evil now as we work for God’s Kingdom.5
The “work for” in that last sentence is crucial. We are not bringing or creating the Kingdom of God. We cannot solve the world’s problems, fix brokenness, or eradicate evil by our own efforts. Only God can do that. However, we are invited to work with God right now as we anticipate a world in which there will be no more suffering, no more evil, and the redeemed will find true comfort in the mysterious, wonderful, and perfect work of God.
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