Thursday, January 21, 2010
Where Is God?
On my Haiti post, Seth left a comment- "I am tired of God allowing so much pain to occur in our world....." I won't claim to have the answers. But those words... I could feel the hurt and confusion. I've been in life situations that involve deep hurts and I've questioned why bad things happen. Sometimes it is easy to point to a person and see that they are making evil choices, that they are led by Satan, that they don't follow God's path. Sometimes, we are left with questions that have no answers. And the earthquake in Haiti is certainly the type of disaster that leaves us wondering... how could this happen? Why did this happen? The very hard thing about being human is that we have free will. We have independence. We have the ability to make our own choices- and suffer the consequences and reap the rewards of those choices. Because we have free will, there will be people who don't always follow a good path and will hurt others, kill others, destroy lives and families. There are always going to be natural disasters. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis... devastating disasters. Hard to see the suffering, hard to accept that these awful things occur. I think Haiti is even harder to witness because there was already so much pain, suffering, poverty. I guess I could point to the government, the police, the corruption and say those are people misled by someone evil, somewhere. This brings me comfort but will leave more questions for others. I don't need to point to the evil. I don't need to know why. I accept that natural disasters happen, evil things happen, people get hurt, are hurt, are abused, are killed I don't need an answer to why. Because I have faith. I believe that God gives us independence, free will. I believe that God is with us- especially in the most difficult times. I guess I feel like God has to "allow" the bad things to happen because that's part of having free will. Our life on earth isn't about living a calm, content, peaceful, happy life. That would have been the Garden of Eden. Life is about making the best choices we can in whatever the circumstances. When terrible things happen, I don't question God's purpose or involvement or seek answers to unanswerable questions. Instead, I have faith that God was there when the earthquake hit. He carried his children home because it was their time to go. He protected some, he soothed and comforted others. He cried with us and for us. Instead of looking to God for answers or to place blame, I remember His entire purpose in our lives- and sometimes that includes death. No one likes to say this next part... but I also believe that there are good things that comes out of bad things. I wouldn't be who I am if I hadn't survived all that I did. We are formed by the events that happen around us and to us- good and bad. I won't say that God set up my life so that I would be abused by my cousin. But I will say that God gave me the tools and opportunities to do something positive and right with that life experience. Where is God? Closer than you can imagine. How can He allow this to happen? Because He "allows" everything to happen- good and bad. To me, God isn't controlling everything that happens. God is grace, hope, solace, love.
I was thinking about this the other day when someone made a comment of:
"I know everything happens for a reason, but..."
I would find that a very hard sentiment to deal with on it's own. It's not very nice to think that the most terrible thing in your life happened to you because it was supposed to, or worse yet because someone wanted it to.
One of my favourite verses is, "All things work together for good to those who put their trust in God." Let me clarify that I don't think that this wouldn't have happened if 'those people' had just trusted God, nor do I think that anything is a punishment for not trusting God (it also says the rain falls on the good and the bad). To me that verse is about hope, that I don't have to be alone when life feels unbearable, that terrible circumstances do not get the last word in my life. I am devastated by what is happening in Haiti and I believe that God weeps for the people suffering there as well. But just as Liz says, He is there, closer than anyone can think, reaching out to all who are hurting. Those lost in the rubble, those who have lost everyone they held dear, and those who are their trying to help, trying to make a difference, feeling like nothing will be enough.
Wow! What a wonderful post Liz! Your words were perfect and I pray those that are angry and questioning God, read this and find comfort. We question because we are human, but then we need to seek Him for the answers. : ) Have a great day!
This is good stuff, Liz. Thank you.
My dad posted on his blog yesterday that he heard from a pastor in Haiti--people there are worshiping and praying and seeking God! So while it's a terrible, horrible tragedy, it is being used for good already.
I have a question. It's kind-of related, kind-of not.
You said, "Sometimes it is easy to point to a person and see that they are making evil choices, that they are led by Satan, that they don't follow God's path."
Are there other paths, besides God's and Satan's, in your opinion? Is the path of God the only good path? If a person is not following God, but trying to do good for the this world, does that still lead to destruction?
I guess your post gave me the sense that you believe bad things are a result - or at least a byproduct - of free will. And your talk of people on the wrong path in the same discussion makes me wonder: do you believe things like natural disasters are the result of people exercising their free will and not following God's path? Or are human-perpetrated evils the only bad that are byproducts of free will? I certainly understand that if God allows us to make our own choices, he must allow us to make dangerous, destructive choices, as well. But I don't understand how that could lead to something like an earthquake.
If God created the Earth as it is, then He created it to produce earthquakes and volcanoes. A lot of the weather-related natural disasters could be argued away - perhaps they are the result of human intervention in nature? But some natural disasters, some *have* to happen, no matter what we do or do not do, because of the way the Earth is designed.
Certainly we don't have to know (or *can't* know, is probably more accurate) why God would create a world that was so volatile and destructive for His beloved people to populate...but why do you think He might have?
When I read The Shack- yes, I know, it's FICTION and has some questionable theology- I still thought that it gave a very good answer to why bad things happen. It's not that they HAVE to happen in order for something good to come out of it. But, they DO happen and that God can work to bring good out of them.
First, I know you said kinda related... but I think you are reading into what I was saying a bit more than I expected!
Most Christians believe and teach that the only way to God is through Jesus, through Christianity. I am the first to step up and say that I don't necessarily believe that in a literal sense. I do believe in 1 true God but I also believe that He is so vast, so great, so beyond comprehension that it is incredibly narrow to think that there is only one possible way to Him and all He offers in eternity and during our time on earth. Given the vastness of our world, our cultures, our people, our skin colors, our faiths... I have to believe that God is far more involved in all of that. In my opinion, people who work hard to do good for the world, who show compassion to others, who love deeply and passionately and respect and love all people to the best of their ability... while they might not credit God's work in their life and while they might not have faith or belief... I do believe that the Holy Spirit works in many vast and wondrous ways. Does that mean that God gets all the credit for good works? Heck no. We make choices- that free will thing again. A question back might be- if you don't believe in God, where does the drive to do good come from? It's our nature to defend and protect what is "ours" and to be selfish with our resources- doing good enriches us and makes life more fulfilling but I don't think it's our base instinct.
I do not believe that natural disasters are a result of free will. Natural disasters are part of the design. Mostly.
You always ask good questions.
Why would God create a world that has to include self destruction?
I would answer first with- for the same reason he created us to have to die.
I would answer second that to look at our current existence and our current natural disasters and decide that God created a place that produces bad stuff for us- while true- is also small and selfish, in a way. I'm not trying to be insulting. But I think the design of the earth, of our species, of other species was done in such a way that there has to be death and destruction, there has to be evolution and change.
Since I've been so hooked on Doctor Who lately... I guess that, for me, I can't look at stories from the Bible and figure that Adam and Eve were just like you or me. Because it's not a simple lateral timeline. It's far more complex "wibbly wobbly timey wimey" timeline. I don't think we are designed to be as we were thousands of years ago or how we will be thousands of years from now.
While God loves me and comforts me and guides me... God also has a far more enormous plan than the little teensy tiny speck that I am in all of it. Am I any less important? No way. Does a mom with 20 kids love them any less than a mom with 1 kid? Nope.
Am I making any sense? I might be confusing myself now...
You're making sense.
It's just been my experience that the traditional Christian view - not that you have ANYTHING CLOSE to that traditional view, but it does seem to be the most prevalent - and my reading of Genesis, in fact, is much more human-centric than you seem to believe. I certainly believe in evolution, and I agree that if God did create us, he didn't create us as we are now. This is, rather, what we have become.
However, Genesis seems to me to clearly describe the creation of this world for humanity.
It is within that reading/understanding of it that I would have trouble understanding why, if this world is for us, it would also be created as a natural adversary to us - and one we cannot overcome, at that.
But as an agnostic, I'm never unhappy with an answer that includes, "I don't know, and I'm OK with that." :)
I'm leaving a comment to let you know that I have nothing to add to your thoughts, only to agree with them.
God is our Father, and he is in the details of our lives. He nevers turns His back on us, forsakes us or ignores the pleas of His children.
Thank you for your insights and compassion.
This is such a great post, Liz.
The only thing I would add is that sometimes bad things happen to give us the opportunity to rise up and be good in terrible circumstances. Just look at all the aid pouring into Haiti now. Sure, they could have used it before, but they NEED it now and we have the chance to show that we can answer the call.
I loved this post. So wise. So full of valid thoughts. I know that God has allowed this tragedy and it is a part of His greater plan. And even though I don't know what the greater plan entails I know that, just as you said, good will come from it.
I agree. God is infinite and we are finite, so we can't even begin to pretend that we understand why He allows things to happen. I just know God is good and He loves the people of Haiti and I cling to that.
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