Sometimes we wonder why we have to go through challenges. We profess that God is all-good and all-powerful. If this is so, why does God allow us to ever struggle? We could understand why God would allow pain if God was not all-good; then God wouldn't care if people were hurting. We also could understand if God was not all-powerful; then God would not be able to stop pain from occurring. But since we believe God is both of these things, then we wonder why a good and powerful God allows hard times.
Throughout the ages, theologians, philosophers, authors, and many others have debated this question. This study is broadly called "theodicy," from the Greek "theos" (God) and "dike" (justice). People who are engaged in theodicy are justifying God. Theodicy is often referred to as "the problem of evil" or "the problem of pain." The "problem" is not seen as evil or pain itself, but how a good and powerful God could allow these things.
After thousands of years of debate, the philosophical and theological culmination of theodicy is that we have no idea why God allows these things. We can guess, we can hope, we can wonder, but we do not know for sure. For every good argument, there is another even better rebuttal to the argument. At the end of all our wondering we, like the biblical character of Job, say "I place my hand over my mouth." We sit with our questions in the great mystery of God.
What God does promise, even when we do not have answers, is love. God promises that the divine presence will never leave or forsake us. God promises renewed life after every kind of death (physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, etc.) God promises that sin, death, and pain do not win. This is the Easter message we remember in worship every Sunday.
In this month of gratitude, let us reflect and remember that there is so much for which to be grateful. Sometimes challenges even highlight this. For example, after a year of not meeting as a congregation during the lockdown, many have expressed to me they are more grateful than ever to now get to be together for worship and fellowship. If not for the challenge of a lockdown, maybe the gratitude would not be as strong now. That is not to say that God brought Covid. God does not hand us pain. But God certainly seems to use it frequently to teach us things, bring us to a fuller wisdom, and even increase our gratitude. Look at all we do have. Count your blessings, not just your challenges. let your challenges remind you of what you have for which to be grateful, and in all things give thanks to God. God will see you through every trial. God will never leave your side. God is abundantly offering life, peace, joy, and love. We don't always get answers, but we do get that.
In gratitude and appreciation of you,