‘God, Where Are You?’

Published 8:55 am Thursday, September 20, 2018

As I write this, the Carolinas are under the cloud of Hurricane Florence, and in many places underwater. Once again, humans are faced with the forces of nature which dwarf us in scope. These storms have made names for themselves, each one causing destruction and death, and impacting the lives of people beyond counting.

Sometimes people describe these storms as “acts of God.” Folks sometimes explain things with the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” The phrase is originally attributed to the philosopher, Aristotle. We seek to find logic and rational cause and effect, especially in a moment of suffering. If we can avoid the cause, we will prevent the result. However, some moments defy reason and logic beyond a sense that things happen.

By comparison, Jesus declared, “rain falls on both the just and the unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45). Struggles and suffering cannot always be directly and logically attributed. Instead, Jesus routinely changes the human condition, not by changing the conditions, but by joining us in them. Even after his death, he declared to his followers: “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20). Whatever comes our way, God will be with us through it.

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Rather than directing suffering against us, God is able to use such moments to help us know God’s direct presence. We remember that life is fragile, and we look to God for protection and strength. We hunker down and wait in the howling dark, longing for the soft light of morning, and we look to God for peace. We see the devastation that hits others and are moved to action offering shelter and comfort. By our actions, we live as expressions of God’s mercy.

Humbly, I disagree with Aristotle that “everything happens for a reason.” I don’t believe in a Zeus-like god who takes aim at any one of us to remove us from the map with a bullet, a car crash, a heart attack or a hurricane. Rather, I have discovered a God who is with us, whatever the causes of a particular event, even through the pain of death and beyond.

Even if we ourselves are “the reason” we encounter what we do, God does not abandon us. Indeed, with the Christian profession we declare that God chooses to be with us under just these conditions. That, my friend Aristotle, is grace.

REV. MICHAEL KENDALL can be reached at kendallmp@aol.com.