The God Who Is Not7:30 AM
Perhaps it was that they were on totally opposite spectrums. Whatever the case, in my daily blog surfing, two posts stuck out to me—both by articulate Christian girls. One was just in awe of the goodness of God—of the blessings He gives—of the greatness of His glory and His mercies to His children. I read that one first. The other was full frontal hatred.
She was angry with God—yes, she hated Him. Her faith was shaken to the point of being almost nothing. She could not understand how God could allow tragedy—terrible, life-shattering, heartbreaking tragedy—in the lives of innocent people. In the lives of His own children, even. How could He expect her to love Him and she expect Him to love her if He did not show love in any tangible way? Was a tsunami love? Was the murder of innocent people love? Was the cutting off of life so early...love?
What kind of God is this?
My first response was, “My word, what on earth do you say to something like this?”
My second was, “She’s right.”
People blame sin on everything tragic that happens in the world—and indeed, there is much to blame. Without our rebellion, without our stinking flesh, we wouldn’t know death. We wouldn’t know separation from love. We wouldn’t taste anything but bliss and righteousness. And sometimes we just have to face the fact that this life is so stained by sin, so completely ruined from foundation to pinnacle, that bad things happen to good people.
But why doesn’t God do anything about it?
Christians hastily try to justify everything that happens by slapping on doctrines of free will and limiting God’s sovereignty, lest we mar God’s name with responsibility, as if He needed to be protected from misunderstanding. We patch things over by saying that God never causes tragedy—He only allows it. But if I allow my little child to play in the street when I clearly see a car coming, am I not responsible for his death? Perhaps He does not cause such tragedy. We can debate over that and stretch His sovereignty to all sorts of unnatural and contrived conclusions. But let’s not pretend that He is not responsible. He is.
No, He does not cause sin—He does not tempt—He is not responsible for sin or anything touching it. We know that. But the answer is not oftentimes found in the refuge of sin being responsible for all the evil in the world. We innocently lie when we say that. It is, sometimes.
But it isn’t all the time.
Job’s friends made that mistake. You’ll remember in thirty-something chapters how they argued with Job about how he must have messed up somewhere, how he must have turned a widow away hungry or dishonored God or did something so horrible as to warrant such utter desolation. Do not the evil, they argued, wither away to nothing and the righteous man prosper?
Wishful thinking, was Job’s response—the evil man does prosper (check the government) and the righteous man does receive trouble.
The cause of Job’s suffering, you’ll recall, was not sin. It was God’s trial and testing—He was fully responsible for letting Satan torment this righteous man, far more innocent than many of us can ever hope to claim.
We can’t wrap our mind around that God is so very God—I AM—YAHWEH—that He can handle the bad as well as the good. The tragedy as well as the triumph. The downs as well as the ups. He kills and He makes alive. He destroys and builds back up. He admits it—openly, without hesitation. He is not concerned about His reputation being ruined, for His ways are always just.
Just, we may murmur. What is just about that? Job asked the same question. He never received an answer. He received God Himself, in all His power and glory, in His majesty and terror, His awesomeness and untamed spirit. He is not coming down to our level any time soon. We must rise to meet His—or, more appropriately, we must fall to our faces and worship.
I was reading through John, studying just who was this Jesus I claimed to follow—reacquainting myself, if you will, through worship and meditation. Don’t tell anyone—but I was disturbed at who He was. He was unapologetic in His beliefs—blunt in His proclamations—unredeeming toward His adversaries—untameable in the fury against the peddlers in the temple. He was God. He was bold. He was, increasingly I understood, authoritative.
Our God is nothing less than God.
When His disciples found a man blind from birth, they asked what his parents had done to cause such an unfortunate predicament. Nothing, Jesus replied. He was born for the purpose of manifesting God’s glory.
When the tower collapsed on a good number of people feasting inside, everyone wondered what great sin had ended so many lives. Not one, Jesus replied. It happened for the glory of God. Not that the act itself was good—but the end would be good, or else it would not have happened.
We must, in the end, wrestle not with the question of Why, God? but Who, God?, for the answer to pain and suffering and why God allows it will be solved the moment we can fully comprehend God. We must decide if we will believe that this good God could redeem even the worst situation, for His glory and for the good of all those who believe in Him. We must believe in tragedy that there is something greater beyond pain.
Some would like to escape that and say He is evil and not worth believing in. But if that is the way God is and we say He cannot exist, then there is no meaning to our pain—nothing outside of the material—and we are no better off than before.
God was not manifested in the flesh to make us comfortable. These hard things that make us shake our fists at our Potter—we get no more answer than, “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?”
Can you trust that He is both good and great? Or will you make Him a powerless God, a God who is not, operative only in a perfect, cushy world that is so distant from reality as we know it? Can your God survive outside a fuzzy box?
What kind of God is yours?