Thursday, February 07, 2008

Burning Our Noodle Part 4

Two nights ago, I was awakened at 4:30am by the sound of sirens that heralded the coming of devastation. While I tried to go back to sleep, my wife watched and listened intently to the news to see where the tornado was headed. By the grace of God, the storm passed us by unscathed, and yet not everyone was spared. As of today, the casualty count from that storm registers 55 persons, some entire families being wiped out by the dreadful storm.

I propose that there are generally two ways to view such catastrophes. One, we can believe that God was unable to stop the tornado from wreaking havoc and claiming lives, or two, we can believe that God was able to stop the tornado but did not choose to do so. Any Christian worthy of the name will believe the latter.

I want to take it a step further and ask this question: Is it possible that God ordains such disaster for the glory of His name and for the good of His people? I believe that it is not only possible, but that this is precisely the reason that things occur the way that they do. I truly believe that "for those who love God all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28:). This may be hardest to swallow in the face of tragedy, but I believe that it is precisely then that these words are most precious. Consider this quote from one of my mentors, John Piper:

It's worth asking as a parenthesis here how a good God can be happy when the world is shot through with suffering and evil. It's a huge and hard question. Two things help me. One is that it doesn't help much to save God's reputation by saying that he is not really in charge. If someone had tried to comfort me in December 1974 when my mother was killed in a bus accident, by saying, "God didn't will this to happen; you can still trust him; he's good," I would have answered by saying, "My consolation does not come from thinking that God is so weak he can't divert the lumber on top a VW van." My God is sovereign. He took her in his appointed time; and I believe now and someday I will see that it was good. For I have learned in Jesus Christ that God is good. The biblical solution to the problem of evil is not to rob God of his sovereignty.

John Piper's mother died instantly when a piece of lumber came through the windshield of the bus and struck her. Could God not control the trajectory of the lumber? Could he not have altered the course of the bus? Certainly He could have, but He did not. Would you rather have a God who allows such things to purposely take place, or would you rather have the solace of knowing that even in the darkest night of tragedy that God is good, that He is close, and that He is working even this circumstance for your good and for His glory. Do you trust Him enough for that?

I sleep comfortably at night knowing that God holds the wind in His hand, that He commands the waves and the water, that not one sparrow falls to the ground outside of His sovereign notice, and that He has numbered my days and the days of my family. I trust Him with every detail, and I know that each has been sovereignly ordained to bring me into conformity to the likeness of His son and that all things are working together for my good and for His glory. I may not understand all things, but I know why all things happen. So the proper question for me in the face of tragedy is not, "Why did God let this happen?" Rather, it is, "Do you trust the Lord, even now, even when the pain is great and the grief a burden?" Joachim Neander, who died at only 30 years of age, expressed this truth aptly in the late 1600's in his great hymn, "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." He wrote:
Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things so wonderously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen How they desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

May God grant us the wisdom to see this truth in the difficulties of our past, and may He give us the wisdom to believe He will do the same in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just found your site and enjoy your writings. I will be back.
Thank you for writing what desperately needs to be read, heard and lived.