By Jim Tune
When life delivers pain or confusion, our first response is often to look at God and shout, “Why is this happening?” This is what we are really asking, “Why did you let this happen?”
Sooner or later we will all end up sitting in a hospital waiting room, funeral home, or lawyer’s office, asking ourselves, “Is God still in all of this?” When shaken by tragedy, we do well to ask ourselves if we can still believe in a God who lets bad things happen.
I’ve had a few personal bouts of what Philip Yancey calls “disappointment with God.” The inner dialogue begins: “If this is how God takes care of people, who needs him?”
Jesus was asked about such things. A tower in the town of Siloam collapsed, killing 18 people. Everybody was asking why God had allowed it to occur. Of course, there were theories—the favorite one being the idea that God not only failed to protect the men, but saw it as an opportunity to squash 18 sinners in one fell swoop.
Yancey argues that something more is at stake when tragedy strikes. He suggests that something more important may be at work that matters more than our need to see good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.
Interestingly, Jesus never answers their questions. Instead, he turns the conversation back on the people. He asks if they would have been ready to meet God if the tower had fallen on them instead. Isn’t that the best question?
Jesus taught that every devastating event in life should not be viewed as God punishing sinners. But Christians still sometimes suggest that likelihood. I’ve heard them. The hurricane, tsunami, or Ebola outbreak is a result of God’s judgment on the wicked. But here’s the thought Jesus left us with: The reason for that tower falling over is not what you think it is, and it’s not yours to worry about.
Sometimes I struggle with the odd disparity between my concept of God and the realities of life. Who doesn’t?
It hurts when a loved one dies. It hurts when someone lies to you, abuses you, or leaves you. When you see your worst nightmare become reality, is there an explanation from God or anyone else that would bring you to a place of contentment?
I’m familiar with the “solutions” offered by Christian thinkers to the problem of pain. Some of their explanations can be helpful. Still, I find it impossible to imagine any comforting explanations for the worst circumstances of my life. Occasionally, through the benefit of hindsight, I have been able to reflect on some of my miseries, find some lessons in them, or see some good emerge from the mess. I do know this much: faith is not a magic formula that keeps all of the bad stuff from coming into my life. And I do need to think more about Jesus’ excellent question: Will I be ready to meet God when my towers crumble around me?