In my last post I wrote about the idea that no matter what happens to us, it is a part of God’s wonderful plan for our lives. I touched on my problems with that idea. Since then, I’ve come across a blog by Kate Bowler, author of the book, Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I’ve Loved. I like her ideas so much that I’ve ordered her book, joined her book club, read her blogs, and watched several of her presentations on U-Tube. She is such a wonderful writer that she says what I want to say, only in a much more interesting and winsome way. (You can find a link to some of the things I watched below this blog.)
One of my favorite plays/movies is Fiddler on the Roof. In the movie, Tevye blames God for anything and everything that happens. When his horse goes lame, he asks God, “What did you have to do that for?” then he mutters, “What did she ever do to you?” One song, from the movie, that I love is, If I Were a Rich Man. At the beginning of the song, Tevye is, as usual, talking to God. He starts out, “Dear God, you made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor, But it’s no great honor, either. So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?” After singing the litany of the many blessings of being wealthy, Tevye finishes the song with a question, “Lord who made the lion and the lamb, You decreed I should be what I am, Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan, If I were a wealthy man?” italics mine. When the Russian Leadership drive the Jews from their homes, villages, and country, Tevye and his family, makes their way to the United States. This play was written in the early 20th century and I would expect that, if this were an historical story, he would become wealthy beyond what was possible in Russia. Did he then Thank God for the persecution that drove him to America?
The problem I have, with the idea that everything that happens in this world is just a part of God’s wonderful plan is that it makes God the author of evil and ignores the part that human freedom, and demonic forces, plays in our lives. For example, let’s say a woman is raped and gets pregnant. Was the rape fate, human freedom gone amok, or God’s plan for this poor woman? If everything happens for a reason, what reason can we think of for the rape of this poor woman? People who look for the reason behind every tragedy will usually find a way to blame the woman. She was raped because: she dresses seductively, she came on to him, she was in the wrong part of town, she was asking for it, etc. In some cultures, not only will she be blamed, she will also be divorced, and wind up an outcast who lives a life of shame. Thanks God, wonderful plan.
When I look at a crucifix and see what Jesus did out of love for us, I know without a doubt, that no matter what we go through God loves us. St. Paul assures us that this is true, “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39) I love the fact that this idea didn’t come from some ivory tower philosopher. St. Paul went through a lot of horrible experiences during his ministry, and still he writes like that.
St. Paul had such an overwhelming experience of the love of God that his faith never wavered even though he was in prison a number of times and had, “countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews, forty lashes minus one, three times I have I have been beaten with rods, once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, …in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food in cold and exposure.” (2 Cor. 11:23b-25) Earlier in the same letter he had written, “we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead:” (2 cor. 1:8b-9) Can you imagine going through all of those experiences and then writing that not one thing, “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And he started out this part of the letter by stating that, “we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God.”
Sadly, often bad things occur not because of evil but because of a lack of knowledge. My dad was just diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, which means his lungs are becoming scar tissue. This has happened because he served in the Navy during World War II and, at that time, Navy ships were filled with asbestos. One of the destroyers he served on was sunk on D-day. The second ship, dad served on, suffered a lot of damage during battles in the Pacific. You can imagine that, every time a bomb hit the ship, the air was filled with smoke and asbestos particles. The asbestos which entered his lungs, have been quietly destroying them ever since.
This brings us to the question, what causes Frontotemporal Dementia? We hear discussions about different possibilities, but at this point we don’t really know why our Loved One’s brains are being destroyed. There have been a lot of articles about contributing factors, such as: being overweight, lack of exercise, lack of mental stimulation, genetics, and medications. Any time we don’t have simple answers to things like this some people will say, “It’s a mystery. It must just be a part of God’s mysterious plan.”
There are so many horrible things that happen to people every day of the year. I cannot believe that the God who is love, chooses things like this to happen. I think life on planet earth is dangerous, and add in self-centered, greedy, sinful people and it’s a wonder that any of us have a happy life.
The good news is that, God takes evil and brings eternal good out of it. Look at Jesus on the cross. Seemingly there was nothing good about Good Friday. But through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, death, sin, and everything demonic has been destroyed. This is the already, but not yet, part of the gospel. These things have already been destroyed, but we do not yet see the completion of this. That waits until Jesus returns. Jesus’ death and resurrection are like D-day. When one of the Nazi Generals looked out and saw the massive armada, he said, “It’s all over, we just lost the war.” However, following D-day there was still much fighting, death, and destruction until Victory finally was achieved.
The problem of pain, suffering, and death are, for me, another subject filled with ambiguity. How do I reconcile a God of love who, seemingly, does nothing while innocent people are destroyed? Life on this planet is beautiful and brutal, pleasant and painful, delightful and dangerous. I do believe that God is ultimately in control and all that he plans will come to pass. I believe that he knows, and cares about every detail of my life. I trust God regardless of what I go through because I have experienced God’s love. I try to follow the old saying, “Never forget in the dark what you’ve heard in the light.”
Next time I will finish writing about this topic and move on to other concerns.