We’ve all seen some storms. We know about the devastation across the south this past spring, and continued natural calamities happening everywhere. What do we think about God when stuff like this happens? You’ve seen the W.I.G.I.A.T. bumper stickers that ask the question, “Where Is God In All This?” I took this photo when Caleb and I were in Omaha for the College World Series. No rain was falling yet. A trash can lid went by going about 50 mph just before I flipped my IPhone up to take the shot. It was dangerous, scary and awesome, too.
I used to love sitting on the front porch during thunder storms when I was a kid. It was so powerful. I was struck by the majesty of nature’s fury. I have felt the same awe when I’m on top of Mt. Mitchell. My dilemma is my tendency to give God the credit for the beautiful things that occur in nature and to blame Nature for the things that are terrible. I get bent out of shape when people say such-and-such was “an act of God,” but I have fueled the dichotomy by my own lack of clarity in answering the question, “Where is God in all this?”
With Narcie’s tumor I want to blame nature gone wild. That’s what tumors and cancer are anyway. When tornadoes strike and people are killed, I want to say Nature did it. Same with hurricanes. Hey, what about the freak accident last night when a firefighter, Shannon Stone, age 39, fell 20 feet reaching for a foul ball in a Texas Rangers-Oakland baseball game. Man, his little boy saw it all. His dad died. Where is God in all this?
Now I know enough about theodicy and am Wesleyan enough to know God doesn’t cause junk like this. James 1 says “every good and perfect gift comes from God and that God doesn’t test anyone. (my paraphrase). This reminds me of the hymn “Stand By Me” which says to me that God in Christ through the Holy Spirit isn’t the source of the bad stuff whatever it may be. God does what the hymn says. He stands by us. That’s one of the strongest messages of Jesus’ incarnation. God has entered our fallen existence and says, “No matter what happens, I’m with you!”
So if God isn’t the cause of junk; i.e., the storms of life – where do they come from? My choices are the first cause. I drove too fast. I chose to disregard my doctor’s advice. I, I, I… but sometimes stuff occurs because of somebody else’s choice. They chose to travel through a stop sign after they decided to drink and drive. They chose…. but sometimes it’s not my choices or those of others that result in mayhem. Sometimes it’s the simple fact that life and natural laws reflect a higher law that was broken a long time ago by Adam & Eve in the Garden. The results of the Fall have reverberated across the centuries. Our doctrines of sin and salvation start with the Fall -wouldn’t need Jesus if everything was pre-Fall perfect, would we? But that doesn’t end the list of why bad things happen to both good and bad people. Lastly, I have to admit in a Scott Peck “People of the Lie” kind of way that there’s evil in this world, sometimes big “E” evil.
However, Here’s the Gospel for my daughter with her brain tumor, the family of Shannon Stone, flood and tornado victims, and the oppressed victims of institutional evil, etc. – Jesus is stronger than any storm. He is the author of everlasting life even when death breaks down our doors. Anybody who believes in an “It was meant to be” world as in the movie “Adjustment Bureau,” better watch out because we believe in a Jesus who doesn’t cause our pain, doesn’t have a perfect panacea safe ride of a life pre-engineered for you. We believe in a cowboy adventuresome Jesus who loves us and the cosmos enough to let freedom deal its cards for good or ill, BUT will be with us no matter what cards we’re dealt.
That’s how I can face tomorrow: Because Jesus lives, not because he holds the future in some controlling grasp, but because only he can beat all the sources of bad stuff. I can face tomorrow because I know that when the storms of life are raging, Jesus never fails to stand by me, us, humanity. So I pray for Jesus’ power to heal my little girl, to soothe the pain of the Stone family, to give rain to those who need it, and to keep it from those poor people ravaged by floods. Please, O Lord, hear our prayers for your presence and your delivering power; in Jesus’ name. Amen.