Faith & Worship: Why God allows bad things to happen to good people

Published 8:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2018

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)”

When I see the mudslides flowing down the mountains and peoples’ lives being turned upside down with mud and flooding water, I wonder where God is.

I want to stop the rain, and I want my friends who are affected by the rain to be safe and their property to be unaffected.

Unfortunately, natural disasters neither obey me or anyone else. It is easy then to think that God should stop all of this rain and flooding.

Wouldn’t a merciful God protect us from all of this disaster? Doesn’t God want me, my friends, and my town to prosper without natural disasters? I would love to get on the God phone and tell God that he must stop this nonsense with the rain.

I would tell God that there are people in the western United States who need this rain a whole lot more than we do here in Tryon. I would tell God that I was just in Wichita, Kansas, earlier this year and that everything is brown there. They certainly could use a little rain to spruce up their lawns and parks in Wichita.

Of course, there is no God phone, and pleading and begging with God is the surest way to disappoint ourselves and lose our faith.

The first verse from Psalm 46 begins by saying, “God is our refuge and strength.” It does not say that God protects us from natural disasters or that God punishes us with natural disasters because God is mad at us due to our individual or collective sins.

The second part of the verse then says, “a very present help in trouble.” Once again, the verse does not say that God removes all trouble from our lives; rather, it says that God will be a very present help in trouble.

This one verse tells the reader that you will have trouble in your life, and some of that trouble will be natural in its origin and some of it will be human in its origin. To be human in fact is to be beset by troubles, limitations, fears and ultimately death.

We cannot escape these troubles no matter how much money we have in the bank, how much power we wield in the government, how well educated we are or how prestigious our families are. All of these things may give some degree of comfort from trouble, but none of them will remove our fleshy and limited humanity from our lives.

The real question is how do we allow God to be our refuge and strength and a very present help in trouble?

I would probably be glib in saying pray, but that is my answer. Now, I don’t mean just rote prayers, but rather I mean the process of letting go all of the shallow and self-centered desires that make us think that we are the center of God’s universe.

God has created us so that we might come to terms with our humanity, and love in spite of all the finitude and humiliation that humanity brings with it. Our savior, Jesus, in fact shows us over and over again that troubles, humiliation, and death are an intrinsic part of our lives. He allows himself to be crucified and humiliated, because we must go there with him to be free of the myth that we can outrun all the troubles that we face in our lives.

Yes, God is our refuge and strength, but only when we allow ourselves to enter deeply into our lives and allow God to be with us in our sorrow, loss, pain, humiliation, and death. If we only allow God to be with us in the good times when our wallet is full of money, our lives full of worldly honor, and our health is hale, then we will only have a thin idol that will be silent when our lives are difficult.

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea. (Psalm 46: 2)”

-Father Robert Ard