June 19, 2018, by Todd Neva
A friend called me because her daughters were distraught with all the damage in the Keweenaw, and she was struggling to answer their question. “Why did God allow it to happen?”
Wow! That’s a good one. Some of the greatest minds in history have wrestled with this question.
St. Augustine wrote about this in about 400 A.D. Theologians debate this today. And sometimes Christians say things that are in some ways true, but lack context or they’re not appropriate for the situation.
First, let’s be clear in that God is not punishing you. Jesus said that the Father makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Whether we are good or bad, we’re all subject to the forces of this world.
Did God allow it? Is he not in control?
In a broad, cosmological sense, yes. But this is where we need context, and an answer that’s appropriate for the situation.
Paul said God subjected all creation to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
And the writer of Hebrews said, “Now in putting everything in subjection to [Jesus], [God] left nothing outside his control.”
But then he said, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”
So, yes, God allowed it in so much as he exposed us to the forces of nature and even the consequences of free will. And he is in control, but the plan is bigger than what we see on a day-to-day basis.
And what we see on a daily basis is a soul factory here on earth.
By one estimate, there has been over 100 billion people born on this planet. About 7 billion of those are alive today. Maybe God could have allowed the first 20 or 30 billion to be born and then ended it all, but I’m glad I had an opportunity to be born. I’m thankful to live in a community that was built long before I was here, safe in a society whose institutions were developed through much trial and error.
We’re here for a time, but our souls live on. And those who know him can spend eternity with God in heaven where all will be made perfect.
In the meantime, we get to see glimpses of heaven — when we love and when we’re loved, when we marvel at the beauty of his creation.
It’s a miracle any of us are alive in the first place. The complexity of life is such that scientists have only begun to scratch the surface in understanding it. The average adult body is made up of an estimated 30 trillion cells. If you lineup all of the DNA molecules in all the cells, it would reach 34 billion miles. It takes the earth 60 years to cover that distance when traveling around the sun.
Anybody who’s owned a car knows that the more features are on a car, the more can go wrong. And as such, in the most complex machine ever designed, one little glitch in the human body — one little protein missing, one little DNA chain broken, one bad chromosome, one little contamination — we have sickness, disease, and suffering.
My point is not to make you anxious of all that can go wrong, but to point out the miracle of all that goes right, day in and day out for so many people for so long a time.
The human body is not the only complex machine God designed. He also designed an incredibly resilient ecosystem that has sustained life for thousands and thousands of years. A combination of lifeforms that trade oxygen for carbon dioxide. The water cycle that sustains life.
We inhabit a complex, and sometimes dangerous, machine. Sometimes we don’t have the foresight or knowledge to understand all that could go wrong, such as exposure to hundred-year floods. There’s no possible way to know all that can go wrong, and there’s no way to live a life completely free of risk. Sometimes things just happen.
But when things do happen, we have an opportunity to show God’s love to those who are suffering. We can work to bring order out of chaos. Find a way to help somebody. Grief needs action.
Featured image: Eagle River Falls, MI, Sunday, June 17, 2018