A friend recently wrote about his encounter with the demand of a theodicy (emphasis added):
Just this morning, I met a friend in court and we chat up. She told me about a case she is handling. It's a fatal accident case. The victim was a 19 year old lady. She was, needlessly to say, at the prime of her youth. She was a smart girl and the only child of a family who loved her dearly. She was a pillion rider in a motor car accident.
The facts seemed sketchy but what is clear is that the motorcar, which collided into the bike she was on, was driven by a drunk driver. And this is the truly sad part. Embrace yourself.
The young lady had in her bag a little dog. Upon collision, the helmet, the lady and the dog were flung off at all directions. As the lady was lying motionless on the road, the dog struggled back to her to be by her side. I guess her dog was the last living thing she saw before she departed. She left behind her inconsolable parents and a loyal dog.
My friend told me she went to the victim's house (her parents just bought her a house) and cried when her parents told her that they had to give away the dog because they couldn't take it. And this is the part of my letter that is relevant. Before we departed, my friend turned to me and asked pointblank, "Is it fair?" Before I could answer her, she'd left.
Reading through this reminds me of what Theng Huat Leow wrote about theodicy, that whenever we encounter such disheartening situation, we shall turn our sight to the cross. For it is through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that God himself asked the question, "Is it fair?"
Whatever we may make of our response to this question, we should not forget that God himself is confronted by this question when his son was dying on the cross.
Yet it was also from the cross that God answered that question. For the cross is "God’s own engagement in theodicy." (Theng Huat Leow, The Theodicy of Peter Taylor Forsyth: A "Crucial" Justification of the Ways of God to Man [USA: Pickwick, 2011], p.35. Emphasis added.)
The cross shows us that "God leads from the front, bearing the brunt of the fight against sin and undergoing the greatest of all suffering for the sake of the cause." (p.154, ibid) It assures us that "God identifies with our suffering, in terms of both solidarity and empathy..." (p.167, ibid)
This means that God is confronted by the question "Is it fair?" not as a bystander, like the lady that my friend talked to. God is not someone who observes the suffering of others and then asked for a theodicy. The cross shows us that God asked that question precisely because he himself was the victim of evil and suffering.
To be sure, the cross is also the victory of God over evil and suffering. The event is the answer to the question posed by itself. In the words of N. T. Wright:
The Gospels thus tell the story, unique in the world’s great literature, religious theories, and philosophies: the story of the creator God taking responsibility for what’s happened to creation, bearing the weight of its problems on his own shoulders. [The] nations of the world got together to pronounce sentence on God for all the evils in the world, only to realize with a shock that God had already served his sentence. The tidal wave of evil crashed over the head of God himself. The spear went into his side like a plane crashing into a great building. God has been there. He has taken the weight of the world’s evil on his own shoulders. This is not an explanation. It is not a philosophical conclusion. It is an event in which, as we gaze on in horror, we may perhaps glimpse God’s presence in the deepest darkness of our world, God’s strange unlooked-for victory over the evil of our world; and then, and only then, may glimpse also God’s vocation to us to work with him on the new solution to the new problem of evil.
(N. T. Wright, 'God, 9/11, the Tsunami, and the New Problem of Evil,' in Response vol. 28, no. 2, 2005. Emphasis added.)