Friday, May 9, 2008

Pain, Evil and a Loving God's Restraint

It has been a day when I have indulged in posting on other's blogs more than I have of late. After having finished Scot's simple yet totally remarkable "40 Days Living the Jesus Creed" this morning, I wandered over to catch up at

RJS has been doing a series called "Our Reasonable Faith" and today's Third Post tackled the problem of pain and evil and a loving God. It is an important conversation [I urge you to read the post as well as the comments] and I joined in at comment #51 with the following very purple thoughts:

Wow…what a thread. Too much to read and process properly, but I have a few coins to toss into the well here.

First of all, Peck’s “People of the Lie” is an interesting look into human evil, consistent with what mariam and Diane have shared.

Secondly, I have been wondering what you meant, Bob #6, when you said: “And the whisperer is trying to establish a foothold at JesusCreed.” I’m hoping that you are not saying that we cannot have a conversation with lots of random thoughts about this most disturbing phenenomon. I hope you have continued reading the comments … this is a very thoughtful thread.

There has been a tremendous amount of transparency in what has been shared, and I know that many of us have lain on the floor and groaned, like doperdeck, over why our precious children and loved ones must suffer so intensely. Sigh…. It is, indeed a mystery.

Finally, Phil #18, you said this: “In some ways I’m tempted to suggest that maybe God’s love or power is limited in some way. But I really don’t know. . . And honestly, it bothers me.”

The story of Job is an important one for this discussion. It contains many mysteries about “why” that we should try to learn from. If God wanted to answer these very questions, would not this have been the place? Yet we see that Job was righteous, that God was confident of his loyalty, that Job was able to voice his grief to God in a very rigorous manner … and God honors his relationship with Job by actually showed up. After helping Job realize that he doesn’t really understand what is involved in being God … Job realizes that he asked a question that cannot be answered. Not because God is unwilling to explain, but because [he is] unable to understand. And so we are called to trust God.

This is part of how God is limited — not in his ability to be and do, but in our ability to receive and understand. God has to restrain himself (a term I prefer to limited, actually) in order to enter into relationship with us. His greatest example of this kind of self-restraint is in the Incarnation.

Others have spoken of a God who does not interfere in our circumstances to change outcomes unless it particularly serves a purpose of his that is beyond our scrutiny. Many times in many places around the world, we see the power of God released for healing and wholeness … and many times we are left to endure the agony and groaning. [And we must join with Job: the Lord gives and the Lord takes away -- blessed be the name of the Lord.]

But the bottom line must be one of faith in the steadfast love of God for his Eikons — and trust that he walks with us, whether it be in the valley of the shadow of death or on the mountain tops with amazing vistas, or the plains where things just are, well, normal. Because he is actively at work in us and in his world bring about renewal and reconciliation and restoration according to his loving will and our readiness to receive and participate in his Mission.

…and so I have learned to be content, regardless of my circumstance. And sometimes the face of contentment is awash in tears and questions of how and when, but no longer why.

Grateful for Papa's Restraint


Janet Woodlock said...

Peck's book is great... it's also hard to go past C.S. Lewis's writings on this topic (I've recently re-read Mere Christianity... such a great book still!)

A couple from church with a sick child said to me a couple of year's back: "We don't say 'why us?'... we say 'why not us?'"

In a world tainted by sin... why not us indeed?

AbiSomeone said...

I remember hearing the "why not us" response as well. It truly is a matter of focus -- are we seeking to see through God's eyes or are we determined to see only through our own and those we love?

It's cHesed glasses for me! ;^)

I've been saying I'll have to get another copy of Peck's book. Loaned mine out ... it never returned....