Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tornadoes, Death, and the Goodness of God

Tornadoes ripped through Joplin, MO this past weekend.  Over 100 hundred people died. 

My wife’s grandmother battled cancer for years and finally “lost” that battle on Tuesday. 

Those are only two of the events of suffering that happened in the last few days.  There were many more.  Somebody’s daughter was raped.  A little boy lost his father.  A child died of starvation.  A young man lost his job.  A little girl’s puppy ran away.  Suffering, suffering, suffering. 

Yet there was also sunshine.  Some little girls puppy came home.  A young man finally secured a job to support his family.  A child on the brink of starvation was rescued and adopted.  A little boy was reunited with his estranged father.  A dad joyously gave his daughter to away to a godly young man.  Joy, joy, joy. 

The truth is you never know which paragraph you will be in.  And furthermore, the paragraph break isn’t always so noticeable.  Sometimes you have joy in the midst of suffering.  Sometimes your joy is a tad bittersweet (like the father giving away his daughter in marriage). 

There is one thing that we all hold in common.  We’ll be in both paragraphs at some time or another.  In the good times it can be easy to forget that these are blessings and grace that come from a very good Father.  And in those really dark times it can be easy to forget that God is good and that the Judge of the earth ALWAYS does what is right. 

It seems to me that I always vacillate between believing God’s power to the exclusion of God’s love or I believe God’s love to the exclusion of God’s power.  But the biblical narrative is that God is not only powerful He is also loving and He is also good.  In other words God is powerful enough to accomplish His loving purposes. 

Good and Powerful in Genesis 18

At the beginning of Genesis 18 we see the Lord revealing His plan to Sarah.  Within one year Sarah, who is “advanced in years”—and according to her own proclamation “worn out”—will have a son.  Her response is a doubting type of laughter: “Seriously?!  It can’t happen.  I’m too old.”  Sarah will slowly be learning that God is powerful and can do what he wants. 

At the end of Genesis 18 we see the Lord revealing His plan to Abraham—concerning Sodom.  He is going to destroy them.  Abraham was a tad confused.  “How could God sweep away the righteous with the unrighteous”, Abraham thought.  So, he begins to barter a little with God.  He stops at “if there are ten righteous people” in Sodom.  Abraham is slowly learning that God is good—He’d never destroy Sodom if they were righteous. 

So, this (and numerous other places in Scripture) leaves me with this one conclusion.  The sovereign Judge of the universe will always do what is right and He is powerful enough to do that which is right. 

What does that mean for tornadoes and a dead grandmother? 

I’m only left with one option: trusting a good and powerful God that promises He will eventually work all things together so that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus.  It would be one thing to help us “get through” the suffering.  But God promises to do more.  He promises to turn those bad things on their head so that eventually somehow tornadoes and dead grandma’s are actually a GOOD thing because they brought us into conformity with Jesus—and this is our GREATEST good. 

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