Things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. As a matter of fact, that’s the subtitle of the book, A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga. Something in our gut tells us that this world is one messed up place. As I write this, I’m thinking of the man I just saw in CCU after a surgery that barely saved his life; of the woman I had lunch with last week whose twin sister suddenly died; of the news just received of a tragic death of a young person last night.
It’s not the way it was mean to be!
So does God sit up in heaven, smiling and content, and indifferent to human suffering? Recently I’ve had my attention drawn to Exodus 3:7-8a, 9a [New Living Translation]
Then the LORD told him [Moses], “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians…Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me.”
When God observes suffering, He opposes it. He does not assume responsibility for causing it, but He does set about to correct it. That is why He calls Moses in the passage: to be the human instrument to make it come to happen.
A few weeks ago, Lynann and I attended the retirement of Dale Salico as Mission Lead (the old title was executive minister) of Transformation Ministries. Dale didn’t want to retire; he’s only 62. But starting early last year he experienced one after another health problem and he had no choice.
Dale’s always had great health. Only about five years ago, he participated in a L.A. to Phoenix bike run.
Dale is also one of the most reflective and theologically-minded execs you’ll ever meet. He summoned the strength to make a few remarks, and instead of the normal retirement banter, he addressed the question of “why?” Why would God sideline Dale in these critical years of the new thing called Transformation Ministries?
Dale told us how when he became a believer, he told God that he was going to continue to read what non-believers said, and that if he became convinced that he was wrong to believe, he’d walk away from the faith. He’s done the first, but not the second: he still reads what the critics of the faith say, but remains convinced that the God of the Bible is true.
But along the way he’s come to this conclusion: there is enough evidence for the faith to believe, but not so much that one cannot believe. This, he maintains, is intentional on God’s part. Give humanity enough evidence for faith, but not so much that our freedom is compromised. That’s why God doesn’t have angels walking down your street knocking on doors presenting the gospel; that’s why God doesn’t flash signs in the night sky to prove that He is there.
So when Dale asks the question, “Why is God sidelining me?” he answers, “I don’t know, but I do know that God is good, that He has His purposes, in which He uses the fallenness of this world to move forward His plan. It falls to me now to trust Him and to be content.”
No, the world is not the way it’s supposed to be. But rest assured, God is good, and works His plan forward. He sees the oppression, and He hears the cries. And one thing I am sure of: He still calls people like Moses (flawed people, like you and me) to be His hands to continue to do something about such suffering. Do we always understand? No. But we can be sure that the loving-kindness of the Lord never fails or fades.