Is a good God really in charge? Some days, you have to wonder. If God is all loving and all powerful, why are there natural disasters, like the one that killed 50,000 in Syria/Turkey, inflicting pain on a people who have endured unimaginable misery on top of tragedy- a never-ending civil war, famine, Isis savagery. Why the immense suffering and destruction in Ukraine, seemingly at the discretion of a lone tyrant? Or the schools, churches, grocery stores and streets of the United States of America, where innocent people are casualties of inexplicable gun violence every day. Does this seem like a God who loves us? We witness our loved ones suffer and die. We agonize mentally and physically. Life is heavy. Why? Why is there so much pain if a loving God is running the show? First, I think that God set creation (and evolution) in motion to run in its own perfect balance, including natural disasters. Floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis occur naturally and always have, but the magnitude of the devastation to human life may be attributed to our population growth, at least in part. From an estimated five million humans scattered about at the earth at dawn of agriculture, 10,000 years ago, eight billion of us now crowd our planet and its resources. No doubt disasters are worse today, due to human folly, but they are a part of nature. The little planet we call home, for better or worse, is perfectly suited for human life- the only such heavenly body we’ve come across in the entire expanse of the universe (so far).
Our bodies are designed to work pretty well most of the time. And what a miracle they are! The best and the brightest today, harnessing all the computer processing power in the world, still can’t equal the reasoning magic endowed to the human brain. Our minds and bodies work great, but they break down eventually. We are not designed to live forever. And God does not promise us a pain-free life, no matter how “good” we believe we are living it. What He does promise is to accompany us through the muck. I’ve heard it put this way: God doesn’t promise to deliver us from our troubles but will always deliver us in the midst of them. There are many places in the Bible you can find this promise articulated. One of the most steadfast is from the First or Old Testament, Isaiah 41:10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Is it a compassionate God who promises to walk with us through our darkest times. I would say so.
Man’s cruelty to man is harder to rationalize and accept, if you believe in an omnipotent, loving creator. In fact, it serves as evidence for some that God is neither compassionate nor in charge- nor even a very capable creator, given how flawed we are. Violence erupts in the troubled, as well as in those who act with cold calculation and clarity. If God is omnipotent, why does He allow us to inflict so much horror on each other? Why are we created with such a capacity for cruelty, avarice, and indifference to the suffering of our fellow human beings? I don’t know. But like any responsible parent, God doesn’t leave us without guidance. The Bible illustrates how to live in a way that minimizes the damage we do to each other and to ourselves. Love God, treat others the way we would like to be treated. The Bible contains as much time-tested, self-help wisdom as every Barnes and Nobel put together. It’s the source. God shows us how to live, we just don’t always listen. If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about. After they reach a certain age, you can no longer follow them around to keep them safe. You can only offer advice and guidance and hope they listen, and that the example you set along the way sticks. The example God provides is the life of Jesus, who shows us how to live- by serving others, forgiving, loving. How many of the problems in our world would disappear if we all lived a little more like that? Ultimately, we are promised eternal peace in the world after this one- whatever and wherever that may be. The “Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven,” as Jesus says in Mathew 16. Is that a caring and loving God? I invite you to reach your own conclusions. Mine are in today’s song pairing: “Shout It!”
Until next time stay safe, be brave and keep walking in the light.