Where is God in this Mess? By Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, Rector


Holocaust, 9-11, Tsunami and the cataclysm of Hurricane Katrina stir up a storm of profound questions about God. Even the Freedom from Religion Foundation asks, "How can typical Christians reconcile their belief that their god is all good and all powerful with the heartbreaking scenes of devastation being telecast from Louisiana and Mississippi?" An ultraconservative Israeli rabbi declared Katrina was retribution for U.S. support of the Israeli pullout from Gaza. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam called Katrina judgment for the Iraq war. The Christian Civic Group of Maine noted that the hurricane struck just as New Orleans was planning a huge gay-rights festival. A Kuwaiti official said, "The Terrorist Katrina is One of the Soldiers of Allah." It is only natural in times of crisis to ask "Where is God?" Smart answers and pious reasoning seem equally hollow and shallow. I prefer to learn from the life of Jesus: Jesus on the Cross bearing the burden of the sins of whole humanity facing utmost insults of Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders. Even he called out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?" (Psalm 22:1). When people go through crisis, the plain truth of the Gospel is news that our God has not abandoned us. He is present when his people go through wilderness, not just the Promised Land. As I wrestle with this question myself, I speak with humility, knowing the limits of my understanding. I won't pretend to have a fully adequate response. The problem of pain and suffering has vexed humanity since the beginning. If there is God, and if He is a good and loving God, why does He allow His creation to suffer? If God is all powerful, then why didn't He stop Hurricane Katrina dead in its tracks? After the Asian tsunami, even the Archbishop of Canterbury was humbled to say, "Of course, this makes us doubt God's existence," According to the Christian and Jewish theology, something went very wrong when human history began. Pain and suffering were not in the original plan for creation. Disobedience to the Creator entered the human race. God created a perfect world, but sinful humans spoil, destroy and disturb the harmony and ecology of natural order. Part of city of New Orleans was built on the wetlands and below sea level. That was the action of men- not God's plan. In the Biblical creation story our ancestors rejected God and rebelled against His wish to keep everything in harmony. As Christian we cannot isolate the problem of natural evil from the biblical story of sin and redemption. God didn't wind the mechanical clock of creation as a distant observer. The dynamic God of the Bible is a Savior, not a mechanic. And through the incarnation of His Son, the God we worship participates in the daily affairs of humanity. God in the person of Jesus Christ is full of mercy. He reigns through the ministry of Jesus and his church. It is all-out attack on evil in all its manifestations. God sent His Son that human beings may not perish but may come to know that, in all circumstances, He offers saving grace. His Spirit from beginning of the creation hovered over the waters and is still our faithful companion amidst our struggles and despairs. God offers us Shalom, Shanti and Salaam in the midst of our struggle and despair. Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe in me" (John 14:1). Through faith, we know natural disaster and human sin are part of the interim between the fall that corrupted God's very good creation and the glorious goal toward which history is moving. God is not only the Creator and Sustainer of the world, but He is the Savior, the one who has put it right and continues to put it right. God's ultimate goal is the rebirth of the entire creation. God saw the enormity of the problem that He sent His own Son to give His life for the redemption of whole creation. Natural disasters remind us that it is not just people but the whole creation that has became sick unto death and is being renewed unto life. Paul writes of the whole creation "groaning as in the pain of childbirth" (Romans 8:22). The pangs of childbirth can seem intolerable. Yet now in Christ they have place in the larger picture of the world's birth and renewal. "All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are...{And} all creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay" (Rom.8:19,21). Christ's arms on the hard wood of cross are open to all.. We too must embrace the suffering world and offer it hope. And through this costly embrace, Christians all over the world give generously work volunteer to relieve suffering regardless of race, color and religion. Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, a Romanian Jew and winner of a Nobel Prize for peace, once asked, "Mr. Wiesel, to what degree would you be willing to acknowledge that the suffering that we have experienced as Jews, in all the calamities of our history and including the Holocaust, are the fulfillment of God's judgments forewarned prophetically in the concluding chapters of the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy?" After stunned silence, he answered: "I refuse to consider that." I, too, refuse to consider that recent calamities are punishment from God. I believe in a loving God whose love, grace and mercy is known to us through His Son Jesus Christ no matter what nature and terrorists dish out. Dr. Billy Graham called Katrina "perhaps the worst tragedy America has known since the Civil War." But he added, "It may be the greatest opportunity to demonstrate God's love in this generation."

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nazirbhattipcc@aol.com , pakistanchristianpost@yahoo.com