What are we to do when God doesn’t do what we think God should do?
When we look around at the world and our lives we often see bad things happening to good people. There is a lot of crime, suffering, injustice… and sometimes it just seems that there must not even BE a God because, if there was, some of these terrible things would never be allowed.
Humanity has been wrestling with these questions forever. And, I’m sorry to say, there are no real good answers. The Scripture story we’ve been reflecting on this week, John 11:1-45, deals with the issue directly. Jesus had been criticized for not coming to his friend Lazarus when he first learned that he was ill. Everyone knew that Jesus was a healer. Everyone knew that Jesus loved Lazarus (and Lazarus’ two sisters Mary and Martha). Yet, Jesus deliberately stayed away long enough to allow Lazarus to die. Only after Lazarus was dead and buried did Jesus finally show up. Here’s a video of Jesus raising Lazarus
On Wednesday we reflected on this story from the perspective of things being ‘in God’s hands’ and ‘in God’s time’. When we try and expect God to act the way we think God should… we are likely to be angry and disappointed… even when we have every right to expect God to do something. Scripture is always reminding us of the truth that even though God pledges God’s love and care for all humanity, God’s ways are NOT human ways.
This answer is completely unacceptable to some people… and more than a few people have given up on the faith because of it. And, I can totally understand. But, there is an equally hopeful and miraculous side to the fact that God’s ways are not human ways. You see, on the one hand, to say “God’s ways are not human ways” may cause us to grudgingly suspend our expectations for God to act against suffering and injustice in the world, but on the other hand, “God’s ways are not human ways” may also give us hope that God can act in such a way that we have no right to expect… like a miracle.
This is exactly what happens in John 11. Lazarus is raised from the dead. And the message of the story is NOT that God will come and raise our loved ones back to life when they die, but that God HAS promised new life, eternal life, beyond the death of all people. It’s not an answer to all the suffering in the world, but it is a pledge and a promise that even right now we can be assured that death and suffering and injustice will eventually end like a ‘bad day’ and we will have full, new eternal life ahead.