Unpredictable World, Dependable Love

Life sucks. Babies die while their parents’ prayers are still warm and fresh, bad boys get the girl and nice guys finish last. So we gaze into the swirling winds and screaming tempests of life and are tempted to give up all hope of deciphering life’s formula. There is no formula, some would have us believe, and they are not without proselytes. Dare we blame them? Quantum mechanics at its basic stumbled-out-of-bed-at-3AM honesty, resignedly preaches that the only guarantee is the caprice of complex and esoteric forces. Moral relativism raises its eyebrows suspiciously at any grand story claiming to explain it all, and with good reason: history is pockmarked with the resounding failures of isms.

Despite all this, humanity stubbornly refuses to give in. The fact that we are outraged by the stillbirths blamed on natural selection’s obsession with survival and sadly wait for the end of the race to applaud the nice guy for trying his best means that deep within us lurks for predictability, for fairness. Hollywood has made millions making us smile at the good boy riding into the sunset with the girl and mourn for murdered innocents. Is this just a vestige of an anomaly overlooked by natural selection? Is our desire for predictable fairness in the face of unpredictable forces and events nothing more than an accident of those very forces and events?

People of (Christian) faith have even tougher nuts to crack… if God is looking out for us, why does He miss so much? How can we defend God when He doesn’t defend us? Some have blamed it all on God, He is all-powerful after all. God has His reasons, we are told, and thus, having no right to question, we are to “only believe”. In other words, God controls EVERYTHING so we are at the mercy of His whims. Whims that may seem unpredictable to our sinful eyes but are really for our own good, provided we are in His good books.

Others have seen it fit to blame it all on the villainous Satan. His diabolical schemes have played out through history. EVERY misfortune is his doing. We are never responsible for anything… when a car that hasn’t seen anything close to maintenance breaks down when everybody is ready to go to church, it is the devil’s fault. You can just picture his devilish hand wiping off lubrication from engine parts and stuffing up the carburetor. The angry wife never meant to beat her husband up, it was that noxious devil! The devil made her do it! Yes, there’s a demon under every stone.

Sooner or later, those who prescribe simple solutions to complex problems are forced to blame the victim. God is simply too powerful and good. That must mean you, the sufferer, are to blame. You’ve repelled God with your incessant sinning and that’s why He’s either withdrawn his protection or punished you. Thus, entire belief systems tilt precariously on the line: there’s something wrong with you and YOU must fix it. This approach successfully draws proselytes for two reasons: it produces shame and puts humanity in the driving seat.

Shame is a strong motivator. It made Adam and Eve cover themselves in leaves and hide from God. It drives people to hide behind beauty, fashion, money, luxury and education. Leaves are great as long as they aren’t used to try hiding from our true sinful condition and God. Beauty, fashion, money, luxury and, certainly, education are not intrinsically evil; hiding behind them is.

As powerful as shame is, it isn’t enough to draw converts because the responses to shame are numerous. Offering shameful humanity a chance to personally remedy their situation (all the while feeling no responsibility) is the missing half of the formula. Pray this prayer, Stop doing this and start doing that are big components of the formula. Finally, you feel in control. Finally, you’re no longer at the mercy of cold, unpredictable forces and events… until you meet somebody who’s ticked all the boxes losing everything (Like Job). Then instead of discarding your formula, you try to find a box he hasn’t filled, a task he’s left undone, a prayer he hasn’t prayed.

Eliphaz and his friends actually defended God when they shared in Job’s sorrow. If God is as powerful and wise as we claim to believe, then He doesn’t need us to defend Him in argument (though we need to engage in debate for learning). He needs us to reveal Him in the tears we shed with the mourning and the laughter we share with the rejoicing. It is in doing what is within our ability, not oversimplifying problems, that we reveal God’s love. For God wishes to be revered not for His unlimited power but for His love. It is God’s love that binds His creatures to Him. To be sure, He extends His might to work in the world but that is all done in an atmosphere of deep love.

It is this love that we are to share with the world. Love shared in words, kind and at times, weeping silence will do more to point the world to God than simplistic answers. Dear God, teach us to love!

The religion of the Bible, full of love and goodness, and abounding in compassion, is darkened by superstition and clothed with terror. When we consider in what false colors Satan has painted the character of God, can we wonder that our merciful Creator is feared, dreaded, and even hated? The appalling views of God which have spread over the world from the teachings of the pulpit have made thousands, yes, millions, of skeptics and infidels. {Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 536}

 

photo credit: ** RCB ** conservation of momentum via photopin (license)

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