WAYPOINTS: God is God and He is good

Rev. Mike Hesse
Rev. Mike Hesse

Hurricane Matthew has come and gone. All along the east coast of the United States the skies are blue and the winds light. From all the weather centers there is a collective sigh of relief. Matthew’s blow to the Atlantic coast was less than feared.

“We are blessed” is the term most often used. Technically, the experts are right. It could have been much worse. But those words probably offer small comfort to those directly impacted by the storm surge and flood waters. More than 500 died in Haiti amidst an island nation leveled by the hurricane. Twenty-three people in our own country died, and millions of lives and billions of dollars in properties were tossed about like grass clippings from some cosmic lawnmower. Most of us spent a lot of time on our knees praying for friends and family members in the path of the storm and feeling otherwise helpless to make a difference.

I challenge you to look at the devastation and not be moved to anger. We do our best to plan for such events. We have strict building codes, set back rules, homeowners and flood insurance policies, unimaginable technological advances — and still things like this happen and people suffer. It is natural to look for someone to blame, someone upon whom we can vent our rage. In the end, that someone must be God. Faced with such tragedy there seems to be only two possibilities:

God is good, and he is not God ... or ... God is God, and he is not good.

The first conclusion assumes that our Lord is a good God who loves his people and cares deeply about our welfare — it is just that he is powerless to directly intervene. Thus he grieves over our tragedies but is forced to watch them from the sidelines as his creation unfolds willy-nilly without direction from him.

The second conclusion believes that our God is powerful and could involve himself to alleviate suffering — it is just that he won’t because he really doesn’t care about people. He just amuses himself with his creation as a kind of divine game to offset boredom, rather like the old gods of the Greek pantheon. Why wouldn’t anyone be angry if our God could be characterized by either of these descriptions?

The problem is that expressing our anger at the first concept of God is useless because he can’t do anything and venting on the second is dangerous because we might make him mad. So, many of us Christians bite our tongues and put a smile on our faces and pretend that we are somehow unaffected by what is going on badly around us and to us.

From a biblical point of view that is exactly the wrong response. Perhaps there is an alternative to the two conclusions about God that goes like this:

God is God and he is good, we just don’t understand.

We know the first part of the statement to be true because Jesus’ death and resurrection give eloquent testimony. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) Jesus, the Son of God, took our sins upon his shoulders and died in our place on Calvary’s cross. Three days later God conquered both sin and death as he raised Jesus from the dead. Every person who accepts Jesus as Savior and Lord will not taste death forever, but will be resurrected to eternal life. That is a picture of a God who is all loving and all powerful — one who understands suffering and involves himself in our lives, but in ways we cannot always understand. He has a plan for our lives, and it is a plan for good and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope. Salvation history unfolds according to his will. He sees the big picture and we do not. Every one of us is created in his image. In God’s economy no life is wasted.

All true, but there are times when we get caught up in the events of this fallen world and we cry out in pain and anger. That’s OK. We are just being honest with the Lord with whom we have a personal relationship. We can be angry without disrespecting the one we love. In fact, it is a reminder of just how much we depend on him for everything and how much we trust him for every outcome — because God is God and he is good —and in the end, somehow by his grace, all will be well.

The Rev. Mike Hesse, former senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church, is now retired and living in Destin.