Hard Questions

The news is usually fraught with gloom and despair.

Current events making the rounds include the 7.2 earthquake in Haiti which killed thousands and the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban and the chaos which is now reigning.

For those who think about such things, how do you reconcile your understanding of God with events like these? The technical term is theodicy, or the challenge of reconciling God’s goodness in the face of pain & suffering.

It’s a challenge that’s as old as thinking people.

What do you do with passages like Romans 13 in the face of the Taliban?

Or the quote attributed to Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”?

And Americans have their collective knickers in a twist over masks and vaccines. Split as divisively as over slavery. (Yep. I went there.)

That’s the point of passages like 1Ti4: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching

Endure? Sound teaching?

Yeah. Some of those passages are hard to deal with. Like the example at the beginning.

How do you square this passage with being compassionate for the suffering of the Afghani?

How can we as a people following Jesus respond in a way that honors God and The Word? It’s way too easy to say that you only obey a nation’s law as long as it doesn’t require you to disregard Scripture. Romans 13:1

13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

That’s about as straightforward as it gets. Paul was writing to fellow Christians living under the Roman Emperor Nero, who was not exactly besties w/ Believers.

Here I sit, fat and happy, half a globe away physically, and worlds away in other perspectives (first vs third world?). I’m not a gazillionaire with Congressional deficit kinds of numbers in my bank account. Not that throwing money at the issue will fix it. America kinda sorta tried that. Multiple times.

Prayer is always a good thing, but what on God’s Green Earth do you pray in this kind of situation? For deliverance? For mercy from the Taliban? For the conversion of the Taliban? For strength? For the ability to endure hardships I have a hard time even imagining? For quick deaths over being tortured?

I don’t have anything that resembles a satisfactory answer.

I am thankful that I don’t have to deal with the challenges other veterans face: was their service in Afghanistan wasted? How do I pray for and support those vets who are not whole physically or mentally because they served over there? How do I pray for and support the families who have been awarded a Gold Star because someone they still love didn’t come home? How do I pray for and support my brothers and sisters in Christ who will likely receive a martyr’s crown?

Used to have a real hard time with that…not having an answer. Not knowing. Not being able to DO something substantive.

But I DO trust God’s essential goodness, even though I am totally clueless as to what the Big Picture might be. I DO trust that His Eternal perspective is greater than my puny temporal one and that somehow, some way, He really is ‘working all things for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.’ Especially when I cannot see how that could possibly be the case.

I am thankful for The Spirit who “helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.” Romans 8:26

And that may be the best of the unsatisfying answers I have.

Struggling with such things is tough. It’s much easier to abandon God, tell Jesus to take a hike, and leave The Church. But I believe I will grow when I spend time wrestling with conundrums like this. I will grow in faith; that God truly is sovereign AND good, even when things are bleak. That I will grow in compassion, not only for those in Afghanistan, but also for those whose challenges are not so immediately life threatening, yet still faith challenging.

And for this opportunity to wrestle with the hard questions (and not be fearing for my life), I am thankful.

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