Answers difficult, questions welcome
The Rev. Darrell Brazell, pastor, New Hope Fellowship, 1449 Kasold Drive:
The question of why the innocent suffer goes all the way back to the ancient book of Job. The first verse declares Job an innocent man, yet he suffers horrifically. His three friends believe a form of Karma, “God gives what you deserve,” so they declare Job must have blown it or he wouldn’t be suffering.
Job argues with them and with God. The “friends” claim to defend God yet actually defend their preconceived beliefs. Job accuses God of being unjust, declaring that if he could plead his case before an unbiased judge, he would rule in his favor, finding God in the wrong.
Job aggressively questions God, demanding answers. He even tells God that He made a mistake when He let him take his first breath! Yet when God finally replies, Job is speechless. One glimpse of God silences him even though God doesn’t answer a single one of his questions.
To the friends God says, “You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” What is the difference? The friends spoke about God, defending their preconceived beliefs. Job spoke directly to God, wrestling with suffering and God’s unexplainable nature.
Why do the innocent suffer? I couldn’t answer that by writing 300 books, let alone 300 words. However, I am thankful God welcomes my questions. Thankful He isn’t angry with me for asking, or even shouting, “WHY?” In fact the ones with whom I see Him frustrated are those who think they have the answers yet refuse to look honestly at the realities in front of them, those who are afraid to look because looking requires questioning what they believe. There are no simple answers, but suffering provides an opportunity to know God when we wrestle with and talk to Him rather than about Him.
— Send email to Darrell Brazell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God not behind recent tragedies
Rev. Dr. Ira DeSpain, minister to Baker University, Baldwin City:
I am asked this question often. When tragedy occurs we often need to blame someone. Sometimes we need to blame God. Yet God gave us free will. We are not marionettes on a string with God as a giant puppeteer.
Whether it’s Boston or West, Texas, or China, God did not decide one day to bring deep tragedy into the lives of people. We live in an imperfect world. Sometimes it collapses, or explodes or gets altered by people of ill will. God was not involved in the production of any of our recent tragedies. We have free will.
Sometimes people say that everything happens for a reason, or that we are never given more than we can bear. I don’t agree. I don’t believe these statements are Biblical. Each one of us is given more than we can bear.
The best words I’ve heard on this subject come from William Sloane Coffin, in a sermon he preached at his son’s funeral: “Nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of seemingly intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn’t go around this world with his fingers on triggers, his fists around knives, his hands on steering wheels. God is dead-set against all unnatural deaths. And Christ spent an inordinate amount of time delivering people from paralysis, insanity, leprosy and muteness. The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is ‘It is the will of God.’ Never do we know enough to say that. The first heart to break when Alex [his son] died was God’s heart.”
Coffin concludes that what God offers is “minimum protection, maximum support.” We do not know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. If God holds the future, it will be OK.
— Send email to Ira DeSpain at email@example.com.