Saturday, June 25, 2016

Where was God?

Where is God? What is God doing? What was God doing when I (we) needed him? God wasn't there in the way we expected him to show up. That's what usually happens. There is a randomness to life. A child is drowned by an alligator at Disney of all places. An unattended toddler dies in an overheated car baked in the Florida summer sun. Flash flooding in West Virginia sweeps away a four year old out of the reach of his father. Orlando - why there, that club, that night, those people. We know someone who was there and survived. Why, him, he wonders. Doctors helping others killed by an errant bomb in an Iraqi war zone. So much seeming randomness. When cancer takes the life of an older person we can bear it. But, our faith shakes when it is an eight year old.

The Psalmist asked, where is God? Christians ask, too. After all, we believe in a loving God who is mighty powerful. We believe in a God who created this world we live in. And who has a plan, a purpose which is not always clear to us but we know it to be good. So what happens when the goodness of the plan does not seem good to us.

We hardly know what to think and thinking won't solve all our dilemmas. Neither will talking and it's a mistake to think we know what to say to help someone who is facing down a tragedy of their own. Best to be quiet and be present.

Many others have thought helpfully about the question of where was God? Some have been theologians and many have been writers sharing how they dealt with a personal tragedy (and some have been both). It's surprising what we can learn from times like these. Christians begin by believing in God as our creator. What God created was/is good. There was no other godlike figure who created the bad stuff. God knows it is there. So, God created us and a world where bad stuff can happen. We are created beings which is better than non being. But, our creation comes with a set of understandings, i.e., we are finite, limited, contingent, and we don't get to have all our questions answered. We are also free to live in a good world. Our freedom has to do with how we live here.

Christians believe in sin and although there are many ideas about sin among Christians, we all agree it messes things up.

Christians believe Jesus is a gift of God's grace to help us out of our messes. So, Christians believe life is a gift (we did not have to be in the first place), and Jesus is a gift. We are on the receiving end of life and grace. Not everyone sees that. It's kind of like the Narnia tales by C.S. Lewis: there is a reality on the other side of the wardrobe. That is the reality we live in as Christians. It starts and continues, and ends with receiving.

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