One of my friends who is not a Christian recently sent me a link to this video. It’s basically a priest, Tom Honey, giving a sermon on why he lost his faith after the tsunami in Indonesia a few years back. My friend asked what I thought and I felt pretty prepared because in church this week we had just studied the section of Job where God responds to Job’s questions and demands. But I still felt unprepared because Tom Honey has some very valid points and he gives one of the most heartfelt sermons I have ever heard.
This was my response to my friend:
During church last night we were studying a passage in Job where God responds after Job airs all of his complaints and demands. God basically says, “How can you, a man, even pretend to know why I do things?” Among the highlights of the passage (I am in Job chapters 38 and 39 if you want to read the whole thing): “Who is this that darkens my counsel by words without knowledge?…Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding…Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you understood the expanse of the earth?”
And the best answer comes in Job 40:8: “Will you condemn me that you may be justified?” Will we force God to be the kind of God we want him to be just so we can feel good about everything?
God’s response is not the most compassionate, but in reading it I was reminded of how little I know about the ways of God. Is God in control of everything, even down to finding me a parking spot? I highly doubt God is a micro-manager, but I don’t know.
“I don’t know” is about all I can come up with when faced with the reality of tsunamis, earthquakes, the Holocaust, etc… But my faith in God tells me there is something more important than all of these things. I don’t rejoice in the suffering of others. I hurt for them. But I also trust that God has everything under control.
To look at something like the tsunami in Indonesia and say that if God is in control of everything then he must be evil is to look at it from the wrong perspective — from a very immediate, context-less perspective. I don’t pretend to know the context, but I know God does.
It would make everything a lot easier if God would have a conversation with us like he did with Job after every major disaster, but he doesn’t.
Job responds to God in chapter 42: “I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
My faith comes not from a literal hearing or seeing of God, but my soul’s hearing and seeing, and my physical experience of his spirit in the beauty of the earth and the love of my family and friends.