QUESTION: Often in my life I have observed terrible things happening to me and those I love, and find myself asking, “Why would God do that?” What is the answer?
ANSWER: The question posed above contains an essential assumption that is inaccurate. Although God is the creator of all that is, God is not the actual “doer” of all that occurs. Within the plan of the Creator, various instruments carry out that unfolding plan. Nature is one of the most obvious of such instruments.
God created the world of nature, setting within it an intrinsic order. What may to us appear as disorder, frequently is just one small piece of a much larger and more complex sense of order. Often when things happen that we dislike, we want to blame the God of nature, the God of order. In fact, it is we humans who intrude on the intended order. For example, we complain of the destruction wrought by floods and want to blame someone. Should we not start with ourselves? Rivers in their own natural order tend to flood periodically. Why then do we build on their banks and in flood plains?
The natural course of our own health follows similar patterns of order in nature. It is equally true that our environment, our nutrition and lifestyles all play a part in how we live within that order. When difficulty and even tragedy strike, should our first thought be to blame God?
The point is that when we ask the question stated above, we need to be open to the answer that God is not to blame for all that we find displeasing. In fact, God is never to blame for evil of any kind. God does not will evil on any of us. God’s will is for our happiness and eternal salvation.
The more specific question we might ask is one seeking to know why God did not intervene in a given situation to stem the course or alter events in their natural order. That is a very good question. God does intervene in that way. There are instances in people’s lives when miracles (changes in the natural order of things) really do occur. Why then did God not do such a thing for me or for a friend or family member?
There is the critical point. The answer is illusive and surrounded in the mystery of God’s relationship with us. The Bible’s Book of Job comes close to the answer when it narrates God speaking to Job, who asks the same question. The answer might be summarized as: “Job, I am God and you are Job. If you had all the answers, you would be God and not need God. But as it is, Job, I am God and you are Job, and it will always be that way.”
Are we any different from Job? At times, we think we are. We are not very content to live with the notion of mystery. We have come to believe that every question must have an answer, and that everything should be clear to us. Despite that, we are human and not divine.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.