As Christians, we sometimes find ourselves in the position of having to defend our faith. This is especially so when bad things happen in life: natural disasters, fatal accidents and serious illnesses, a loved one dying long before their time.
When these bad things do happen, people ask us why? What is this God of ours doing? Or they say that there is no God because, if there were, he would not allow such things to happen.
I believe that one of the misunderstandings that many sincere people have about God, is that God controls everything that happens, and that everything happens for a purpose. That is not my understanding of God. Sometimes bad stuff just happens, simply because the world is created the way it is, and people are created the way they are.
I was reading recently of a much-respected minister who served for many years in a parish in Massillion, Ohio. He was the late Pastor Maurice “Mo” White. Pastor White was a very large, strong and vibrant man. One particular year during Lent, one of the older, but faithful members of the church came with her husband to an evening Lenten service. As they were leaving the service, the woman somehow fell down the outside flight of steps and broke her hip. For some unknown cause, she did not recover from the hip surgery and died in a few short days.
It was the tradition in that community for the family and their minister to spend some time at the Chapel of Rest on the night before the funeral. Many people came to offer their sympathies.
Some well-meaning friends were saying to the sorrowing husband, “God must have had a plan for this, so accept it.”
Another said, “It was God’s will and we must live by it.”
Still another said, “Somehow God planned this to test your faith!!”
And still another said, “There is a silver lining in every cloud, you will find God’s reason behind this eventually.”
Pastor White left that funeral home filled with a very strong emotion of anger at the “babbling”, as he put it, he heard that evening. He went to the study and rewrote the beginning of his funeral address.
He began his funeral address with these words: “My God does not push old ladies down church steps!!!” Then he proceeded to explain that God cannot be blamed or accused for all the brokenness of this world.
I firmly believe that the God who revealed himself in Jesus is not the author of suffering and heartbreak. Jesus spent the whole of his ministry easing the suffering, healing the sick, comforting the sad. He told us of a God who loves us and wants us to enjoy life in all its fullness. He revealed a God who shares our sufferings and helps us to cope when things go wrong. In Jesus we see a God who at Easter overcame human sin, suffering and death, and raised Jesus from the dead.
So when bad things happen and people ask why, let us not assume that there is some hidden purpose behind it all. Let us not be afraid of admitting that we do not have all the answers. Instead let us gently point to the God who loves us, who understands and shares our sufferings. Let us speak of the God whom we see most clearly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Yours in Christian love,
God of unfailing compassion
and unconditional love,
open our eyes to see your world
as you want it to be,
open our hands and our hearts
to share all its resources.
Show us how you want us to live,
work, love and strive
until small streaks of light
become broad patches of colour,
frayed ribbons of hope
are deemed worthy of repair
and the picture of your world
is whole and complete.