Is God to Blame?
Is God to blame when we suffer?
Does God cause our Suffering?
Did God give my mom the cancer that killed her?
Those are hard questions. We need to ask them. More importantly we need to answer them. For ourselves and others. These are questions that plague our faith and life.
The first two are general questions that we all ask ourselves on occasion.
The third question is personal. One I have been wrestling with for a while. I need to answer this for me. How I answer it will affect the future of my faith and life.
Can I trust God?
That’s what it really comes down to. Is the God revealed in and though the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus trustworthy? Can we trust him or is he the bad cop to Jesus’ good cop?
This is a fundamental question.
In church History class, I’ve been considering Calvinism. I’ve heard of it before. The dreaded TULIP (I will have more to say about this in future blogs), and double predestination. My stance on that, which I relied on was and still is God does not send anyone to hell. (I’ll have more to say on this also)
According to my Church History professor, Calvinism forces you to believe either a power wielding ogre of a god who either sends you to heaven or hell on a mere whim or a wimpy god with no control over anything. Is God a powerful callous overlord in the sky or is a weakling that loves but has no power to do squat about all the evil and suffering? She didn’t use those words, but did use those categories. This may be an exaggeration, but not by much. I say no to both!! I just cannot believe/follow a God who is less loving and gracious than my mom and I cannot believe/follow a god who is less powerful than man. I also cannot and will not believe/follow a god who’d permit or predestine the holocaust or my mom dying from cancer.
We say and sing all glory to God. I cannot and will not glorify a power wielding ogre of a god or a wimpy god. I cannot and will not do it! That kind of god doesn’t deserve our worship and service.
I was stuck there. I asked several people including my pastors back in Utah, my seminary academic advisor, and the dean of the seminary. The answer from all of them was God didn’t give my mom cancer.
The dean of the seminary did say that his understanding (and he teaches Calvin, so he ought to know) of Calvin is God is present in all things and his glory shines through it all.He said more and we had a good talk about it.
Another question—how does God’s glory shine through my mom’s death?
The answer straight from Jesus mouth can be found in the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel.
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Restated from my context: Neither your mom nor you sinned; she died from cancer so that God’s works might be revealed in her and you.
Wow! We’re dealing with a revelation here. This is holy. Oh my!
Now, I am not saying I am not a sinner or that my mom never sinned. We both know our need for the Savior. Jesus saves sinners, that’s what he does.
I was reading John Crowder’s excellent book Cosmos Reborn when I was graced with this revelation. He writes, “Ultimate solace is only found in the person of Jesus Christ.” Yes! He says that we shouldn’t worry about the problem but abide in the answer; we shouldn’t fret over the how or why but relish in the who. The answer and the who are Jesus, of course.
What he is saying is that Jesus is what matters. Jesus will be with us in the crap that comes to us in life. It is faith in Christ alone that saves and heals us. As long as he trust and abide in his love for us even if the worst does happen (and I know that it will) he is with-us.
The God I see revealed in and through Jesus is a God of love and grace who doesn’t cause, permit, or allow pain and suffering but suffers with us. Co-suffering love deserves our worship and service; the God who can say, ‘me too’ that should be glorified. God was in Jesus reconciling the world to himself means that on Good Friday God was on the cross dying for our sins, in order to defeat all the powers of evil and sin. God doesn’t cause or allow evil but suffers alongside us with and in it. God is in our mess with us whispering his loving kindness. All I can do is keep my eyes and heart firmly fixed on Jesus and abide in the truth and beauty that God is and has always been, and always will be exactly like Jesus. The God I worship and serve is Jesus-like. God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ—not Calvinism or any other ism. As Brain Zahnd has said, “Jesus is God’s personality profile.”
And that is good news! Amen!