When I first watched episode two of Angel Beats!, my emotions were mixed. One one hand, I found Yuri’s background a little over-the-top and and the events of her past didn’t strike a chord with me. On the other, I started liking Yuri as a character and embraced her as the centerpiece of this series.
The second time around, things are certainly different. I went in knowing that Yuri isn’t really the heroine of the series. I listened to her words more closely. And I allowed her story to resonate with me…well, more than it did originally.
Yuri’s tale is a difficult one – her failures lead to the violent deaths of her siblings. I’ve certainly never experienced anything of the sort, but all of us have experienced pain that we consider unfair. Twice, Yuri calls her circumstances this – she can’t get over the injustice of it all, probably as much for herself having to go through this experience and live on (at least for a few more years) as her innocent siblings dying in a terrifying way.
And who does Yuri blame? Well, a most natural source. Towing the line between agnostic and believer (though probably more accurately a believer who has troubles with her faith), Yuri places her blame on God. She wants to “defy God, if he’s really there.” After all, why would a loving God allow all this tragedy to occur?
This is the problem of pain. How can millions of Jews and other individuals be systematically annihilated while God stands by? How can a baby with disabilities be thrown to his death from the fourth story of a parking garage by her mother? How can terrible people gain riches and fame while a loving mother dies in squalor?
Those who don’t believe in God can be divided into two categories: ones who don’t believe because they do not think He exists and those who believe He exists and choose not to believe. Of those in the second category (fictional Yuri included), many defy God because of the belief that He really doesn’t love us at all. He’s not a loving god, but a vengeful, sadistic, uncaring one. Their proof is the world around us.
But is He really that way? How can Christians put together the seemingly polar ideas of a loving God and a painful world?
Well, Christians believe this: the world is painful not because of God, but because of man. When Adam ate of the apple, he brought sin into the world. The world, once perfect, was now marred. As time passed, murder, death, genocide, cancer, infanticide, disease, abductions, rape, and all sorts of evil, unfair, and painful things entered the world. As people attempt to live their own way rather than God’s (a definition of sin), we reap the consequences of our action. We live in a world of our own creation.
Why doesn’t God just clean up our mess? Part two of the answer to pain is this – He allowed sin into the world because He gave us the choice to follow Him or follow ourselves. Like a father allowing his child to make a mistake and learn from it, God does the same for us. And yet, He does offer a “do over” of sorts. In letting Christ take on the burden of our sins, we can choose to have a “second life,” with a “new heart,” never fully transformed here, but one day made complete in Heaven.
That answer is not satisfactory for many, but I believe that it’s true and that it makes sense. And as I travel through Angel Beats! again, having forgotten exactly why certain events transpired, I’m eager to see how Yuri comes to a conclusion that will lead her to peace. What is her answer to the problem of pain and does she indeed come to peace with God?
What about you? What do you see as God’s role in this problem of pain?