Making sense of causaltiy. Attempts to understand the unexplainable in the context of Jesus following often takes the shape of an appeal to divine sovereignty. Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50 what they, his brothers, meant for harm, God meant for good, the saving of the lvies of many people. Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 8 God works out all things according to his purpose.
Our own attempts to put the difficult together often leads us to ask, “For what purpose did that happen?” On a number of occasions in my current ministry context this question has come as we faced the death of young children, youth and young men. I can honestly say I am still baffled by those who troop out the trite to explain the intensely painful and emotional. The idea God “needed” them more than we did just does not fly. I don’t find such explanations part of the Scripture.
What happens when lesser events come our way? Who determines the purpose of this or that event? Helping young people wrestle through the meanging of life’s events must be just that, a community event. Left to ourselves we may string events together and draw wrong conclusions. We may even discover more than “one” purpose. This in not way diminishes the need to recognize the activity of God. Instead it points up the fallibility of my “certainty” when it comes to putting it all together. We need each other trusting the Spirit of God to get our minds around the difficult – and then it is still tough.
5 comments on “What was the reason for that?”
I certainly agree that trite answers often do more harm than good. I will say, however, that in my experience with people dealing with tragedy and loss there are those, on occasion, who find some comfort for themselves in their holding on to some of those trite answers that they provide themselves. I always cringe a little (and sometimes a lot) when someone else offers that kind of answer, but when a person finds some comfort or meaning in using one of those answers for themselves I’m at least glad that they are finding some help to get through an otherwise unbearable situation.
Tim and Paul,
Thanks for the comments. I suspected my post would tend to illicit more discussion of our attempts to understand the tragic. I should have spent a bit more time on the last paragraph. My allusion is to helping people, youth for example, who seek to understand somewhat ordinary events in the light of our penchant for – that happened for a reason. When they construe everything as happening for a reason don’t you think they make need the benefit of a community of people helping them think through the implications of their own conclusions lest they obsess in ways that keep them from seeing wider implications?
Well, I finally am getting around to commenting on something.
It seems that many (not all) of the tragic things that happen have straight-forward answers as to “why.” You strap (or worse, do not strap) yourself into a metal container moving at speeds of 50 MPH or more and then hit something, it is awful. Awful on so many levels. The “why” isn’t really the issue, it is, rather, that I loved that person and/or had unresoved issues and I wish they weren’t hurt. How do I back this thing up? so to speak.
I’m no scientist, but it seems also that many of our ailments, cancer to be included in that, are the result of our own stupidity, diet, enviroment, stress. Of course it’s not that simple, so my attempts at Stoicism eventually end up masking my frustration with creation in general, but it helps with some of it. The larger question, again, is that we love, or regret that we do not. Mix that in with all variations of tragedies and it’s where the big fat mess comes in.
Certainly. I sometimes hide behind my attempts to come up with “answers” for these kinds of events, but ulitmately even the ones that work don’t work in the larger sense. We are mysterious creatures, love is messy. So yep, i agrree that wrapping each other up in the blanket of spiritual friendship is pretty important.
Tempering what we think abot difficult things? Certainly we can affect each other, though i’m often amazed at some of the spiritual utterances that come out of the mouths of our babes, and i’m talking about babes who have for whom our church has beeen the primary community since they were knee-high. “Where are earth are they getting that drivel?” I ask as I scratch my theodocy.
I suppose it all comes down to the question, is God just? Does God send down rewards and punishments or is God whimsical & not trust worthy? I had to face this personally when my beloved wife and mother of our three small children died of cancer 12 years ago.
Some people wanted to blame her for her disease, or me, saying I wasn’t good enough as a Christian, I suppose Job* went through the same sort of “friendly” responses.
In the end, I came to the understanding that I just don’t know. In the Garden, we insisted on eating of the tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil. Our kind wanted to decide for ourselves what is good, and what is evil. Apparently we are not allowed that knowlege and for me, that helped. I can tolerate mystery and faith intermingled.
I know God, I know His love, and I know He is beyond me, in so many ways as to be indescribable. I also accept that I can’t know everything, but that doesnâ??Ã?Ã´t mean I am powerless, and empty handed, I have been given faith. I do have that faith, that God abides, that God stands with us, and when can trust in
Godâ??Ã?Ã´s presence even though the worst.
As my brother recently died in a great deal of pain, I was comforted knowing that the Love of Christ took Him to that place of agonising death, and was with my brother in that moment, in a way none of us could be.
*My Priest recently mentioned that: “Jobâ??Ã?Ã´s appeal to have a mediator, an umpire is a prophetic testimony for the necessity of a Christ, a being both human and divine who could bring about reconciliation between God and us.