Archive for the ‘Theodicy’ Tag

Why?

peter and john running to the tomb by burnand“Why?” seems to be the question that God is least likely to answer. Consider, for example, the story of Peter and John on the beach with the risen Jesus in John 21. Jesus predicts Peter’s death, prompting Peter to look back at John and ask “what about him?” Jesus replies “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

In a sense Peter is asking “why?” Why must I suffer? Why do others receive blessings that I don’t receive? Why do I have this particular life and not the life that I want? Job also asked these sorts of questions and he, like Peter, received the answer that seems like it isn’t an answer: “what is that to you? you must follow me.”

Some might argue that God doesn’t answer any questions, but I have found that some questions do have answers. Does God love us? Yes. Will God be faithful to us? Yes. How should we live? Love God and love our neighbors. Some questions God has answered, but faced with the “why” of life – especially the “why” of suffering – we seem to mostly hear God simply saying “trust me.” She usually doesn’t tell us why and we don’t even know why she won’t tell us why.

In the face of such mystery we are prone, like Peter, to start comparing ourselves with others. That path quickly leads to jealousy. From there it is just a short hop to doubting God’s goodness. After all, if I am focused on what God is doing in someone else’s life then I am most likely missing what God is doing in my own life. And when I stop paying attention to God’s work in my life then I start doubting that God is good and even begin to wonder if God is doing anything at all.

There is a wonderful line in the collect for Proper 12 in The Book of Common Prayer. It says “may we so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.” Suffering is temporary – and so are wealth, power, and good looks. All the things that make us ask “why me?” or make us ask “why him and not me?” – all those things are temporary. When Jesus says “what is that to you? you must follow me,” he is telling us to look to what is eternal so that we do not lose it. What is eternal? The Father, Son, and Spirit, the love of God, and the love of our friends and family. May we learn to pass through the things that make us say “why?” in such a way that we do not lose the things that make us say “thank you.”

 ~ Jonathan Stepp

Haiti

I believe that Jesus, the Son of God as Man, is with the people of Haiti in their pain today. He shares with them in their suffering as the whole creation groans “as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:22.)

What we are seeing is another contraction in the birth of the new heaven and the new earth – and contractions hurt. They hurt a lot! Or so I’m told by mothers who have experienced them, I have obviously never given birth to a child. And I have also never experienced the pain of a devastating earthquake. But I have witnessed both and expect that I will witness more of both as the years go by.

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to compare the suffering of humanity to the suffering of childbirth. This comparison reveals at least three important realties about suffering:

Suffering – disease, earthquakes, war, famine – is the result of the fall. Remember what the Lord said to Eve after the fall? “With pain you will give birth to children” (Gen. 3:16.) Because of the fall no child is born without pain and likewise the new heaven and the new earth are not born without pain.

Like childbirth, the pain of the birth of the new heaven and new earth is leading to something far more wonderful than the present and temporary pain we are experiencing. Even in the midst of the birth pains we can have hope for what is coming.

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, does not leave us alone to endure our pain without help. The Son was born of a woman, coming into our world in the midst of pain, and he endured the pain and suffering of our fallenness on the cross.

While we wait for the new heaven and the new earth to be born we endure the birth pains with hope because of what we know is coming: the end of death and sorrow and the wiping away of every tear. And our brother Jesus waits with us, and endures our pain with us, and pours the Spirit of his Father’s love into the hearts of millions of people who will pray, give, rescue, and rebuild to ease the pain we are going through.

~ Jonathan Stepp

Update: Click over to The Surprising God Blog to read more of Ted’s thoughts on this subject and to find out how to donate to help through the G.C.I. disaster relief fund. The info on helping out is at the end of Ted’s Post:

http://thesurprisinggodblog.wcg.org/2010/01/where-is-god-when-world-suffers.html

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