If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning — just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. Similarly, the fact that eyes exist suggests that light must exist. And the the fact that we have spiritual longings … the fact that we even have a meaningful category of thought and speech called spirituality … Suggests that there is some corresponding reality out there which we have the capacity to “sense”. That capacity would be called faith, and that reality, God.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1943, p. 46)
Faith isn’t something you either have or don’t have, but something that ebbs and flows in the life and soul of every individual. Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. It’s an element of faith. Where there is absolute certainty, there can be no room for faith.
Another day, and another mass shooting (or more than one) hits the news. In the wake of these senseless acts many are drawn to ask some very straight forward questions…
How can a loving God fail to intervene and stop the harm that humans cause in this world?
If God has a plan for us, and for our lives, does that mean that part of His plan includes living in a world filled with such utter evil?
Is this really His plan?
I’ve struggled with these questions often. Yet my faith remains strong. In fact, my faith has grown along with my struggle.
I know there are those who don’t understand how that can be. I’m not going to pretend to have answers for anyone other than myself. My thoughts on this subject may not be helpful to you at all. But… if there is any chance that they might help, I would be remiss if I didn’t share them. So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I think.
I think that the core of our confusion comes from a misunderstanding about the nature of God Himself. Without intending to, or understanding that we’re doing it, we ascribe human qualities and attributes to God when we think about these things. We presume that God sees the world the same way that we do.
God is love. When He created us He created us to be able to experience Him. To have relationship with Him. To love Him. When we love, we are engaging in relationship with God.
In order for our ability to love to have meaning we must also have the ability to not love. God gave us the choice to love or not in order for us to be able to comprehend His love for us.
Think for a moment of some of the great opposites of life.
Light and dark.
We can’t understand light, without dark. One requires the other in order to provide the framework for understanding either.
Hot and cold… soft and hard… loud and soft…
Good and evil.
Love, or hate.
We can choose love… choose relationship with God.
We can choose to not love… we can reject God. The cumulative effect of the rejection of God is the introduction of evil into the world.
God knew that many would rebel against Him. But He also knew that many would choose to follow Him and have a relationship with Him.
God knew that the effect of those turning against Him would be suffering in the world. However, suffering was not His purpose. It’s a consequence of our rejection of Him. Yet, He takes our suffering and uses it for His purpose.
It’s through our suffering that we are able to gain sufficient perspective to understand what Grace is all about. God exists in a constant and unending state of Love that we can take part in. Without suffering His grace would have no meaning.
To appreciate light we have to experience dark.
In response to events such as these we have a choice. We can turn away from God or we can turn toward God. Through the suffering of His son, God has experienced human suffering at its worse. He understands our pain. He provides us with an option for relief from our pain. He offers us the opportunity to transcend our humanity and to join with Him in perfect eternal relationship of spirit.
I can’t say that I know how God will use these senseless acts for good. But… Here I am, writing about His love. Encouraging you to turn toward Him rather than away.
Here I am, stepping forward to be counted as a man of faith – and sharing my faith openly with others. This is not a path I imagined for myself.
In a strange, counterintuitive way, these tragedies strengthen my faith and my resolve to do my part to share the message of God’s love for us.
Where has the wonder gone? I’m not talking about wonder as a verb… A question… As in… “have you ever wondered about…” or “I wonder what…”.
I’m interested in rediscovering Wonder as a noun… of finding that fascination and feeling of overwhelming joy when one encounters something marvelous…. Something extraordinary; or beautiful; or just … Wonderful. As paraphrased from Arthur C Clarks 2001 Space Odyssey…
Something’s going to happen. Something wonderful.
In this context, wonder isn’t something we do. It’s not an action. It’s a state of being… an experience… an observation of a state of reality.
In a way, this distinction is similar to the one we find ourselves in when we consider the state of the “scientific” within the Christian and other faith traditions.
Why does a debate between creation and science exist?
The debate itself doesn’t make any sense to me because I think that science is a gift that helps us to experience wonder, and though that gift to experience God. It’s not about proving whether or not God exists. It’s about finding the wonder in our physical existence and understanding that our physical existence itself is of God.
Sometimes scientific minds make the mistake of thinking we’ve figured it out and therefore there is no reason to explore further. However, if we continue to dig and go deeper we uncover more mystery… More wonder. When we manage to internalize that experience, we transform and have the opportunity to experience God.
The English physicist Sir William Bragg once said…
Sometimes people ask if religion and science are opposed to one another. They are — in the same sense that the thumb and fingers of my hand are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.
What a brilliant analogy! Experiential paradox! It is only through the opposition that we can understand and grasp the wonder. It is only through the experience of pain and suffering that we can grasp the meaning of pleasure and joy. It is only through the experience of birth and the certainty of death that we can grasp and understand the wonder of our spiritual birth and timeless spiritual existence.
When I think about wonder, I begin to see that I frequently fall into the trap of thinking that God is a God of actions. That the concepts we attribute to him are concepts explained in language through the use of verbs.
God loves us… God forgives us…
Yet we struggle to accept this. We don’t understand how we can possibly be good enough for God to love us. We don’t understand how God can forgive us when we have done so much wrong in our lives and continue to do wrong despite good intentions. We struggle because we feel that if we fully accept God’s love and forgiveness… if we fully accept God’s grace… we will no longer have a reason for trying to live up to any type of standards. Why try if God will love us and forgive us no matter what?
The problem is that we are thinking of God’s love and forgiveness as actions that God does. And with an action that God would do, we assume that God must choose to either do it or not.
I think the mistake here is believing that God’s existence includes relating to us through the actions of loving and forgiving. Perhaps instead… God exists in a state of loving and forgiveness. God is love. God is forgiveness. He doesn’t chose to love us or forgive us. He simple is love and forgiveness, and because He wants relationship with us that relationship must exist in a state of love and forgiveness, because God exists in a state of love and forgiveness.
So, how do we manage to love God? Why do we need to do anything good, moral and right if God’s forgiveness is already there?
Again, as we ask these questions we slip into thinking about love and forgiveness as the relate to God, as actions rather than states of being. Perhaps what needs to happen, is that we need to experience transformation… to move from a place where we understand our love relationship with God as an action to a place where our love relationship with God is a state of being…. We move from a place where our faith relationship with God is no longer an action… we no longer act faithfully. Instead we are faithful. We transform our faith from action to state of being. We transform our love for God from the act of loving to living in a state of love.
In a similar way, we transform and stop trying to experience wonder within our existence. Instead we begin to live in wonder as a state of being.