God, Suffering, and Tornadoes

God, Suffering, and Tornadoes

In my last post, I introduced our topic of God and suffering with regard to this week’s deadly tornadoes. Go back and read that here if you haven’t already.

And now, for Part 2 of “The Danger of Explaining Tornadoes”:

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin wrote a God-anointed book in the last days of his battle with the cancer that claimed his life. In it he wrote:

Whenever we are with people who suffer, it frequently becomes evident that there is very little we can do to help them. … The reason this is so frustrating is that we like to be ‘fixers.’ We want not only to control our own destiny, but also that of others.

My experiences with those who have suffered tell me that it is cruel to interpret their suffering via our explanations. I think Cardinal Bernardin was right. We know we do not have control of our friend’s suffering and therefore, neither do we have control over our own impending future. The security of our hedge-theology is in question.

We must be merciful to those fixers who have not suffered. Their cause and effect faith has gotten them where they are. They are enjoying their health, homes, jobs, business success, educational attainments, and reputable friends. They accept all this as a gift of God – which it is. They believe it to be either the wink of God’s approval on their righteousness, or a blessing with no other explanation but God.

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The Danger of Explaining Tornadoes

The Danger of Explaining Tornadoes

Today’s post is the first of two about God and suffering in the wake of this week’s deadly tornadoes.

For some reason we humans believe it is our responsibility to explain everything that happens. And religious people are even worse. I suppose that if we can explain it, we feel that we somehow have mastery over it. Silly, aren’t we?

Life has been lost in Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee with the recent round of tornadoes this week. I remember a few years ago when a tornado tore through Nashville and someone informed me that God was judging the city for leaving her Bible-belt roots and embracing the vile entertainment of country music. Regardless your opinion of country music, I think it is the most theological of all non-religious music because it is blatantly honest about what sin does to people.

So, I ask, is there a connection between the spot a tornado hits and the morality of the people on that spot at a given moment? Are tornadoes a part of a cause and effect world? Are they the consequence of something? Before I answer, come with me to the book of Job.

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School Stabbings, Malaysian Planes, Washington Mudslides, and God

School Stabbings, Malaysian Planes, Washington Mudslides, and God

A community is trying to make sense today of a student’s vicious stabbing rampage in a Pennsylvania high school’s hallways yesterday morning.

The people of Malaysia are hoping that a faint ping from the Indian Ocean will locate their missing loved ones who boarded a plane on March 8.

A mudslide recently in Washington mudslide brought swift death and destruction on a calm day.

The people of New Orleans can tell you stories about the destructive power of water. A raging hurricane named Katrina collapsed dams, washed away levies, and overran sandbags. Every hedge of protection set up against the tide was futile. It took everything in its path and sent wise people in search of higher ground.

What do we do when the hedge of protection that separates us from disaster is removed? And is there even a hedge? We are confronted with a 24-hour news cycle that keeps announcing bad things happening to seemingly good people. How do Christians speak of God in these moments?

Job’s Story

A good starting place might be the story of Job. You might say that his plane went down, a mudslide hit him, and a hurricane came crashing in. According to the story, it was God who moved the hedge and let it happen. But that is not the end of the story.

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When Work Is a Pain

When Work Is a Pain

If you want to make promises that hard work yields great reward, Proverbs is the goldmine of texts. But it is not the only voice that speaks into the workplace. The Old Testament story of Job is a dissenting voice to wisdom.

Job did everything he was supposed to do and lost it all. Some have suggested that Job was written as protest to the simplified proverbs promising that if we do “a” we will get “b.” Sometimes we do what is right and suffer for it.

Job’s friends all had Ph.D.’s in wisdom but were declared by God to be dead wrong.  Suffice it to say there is no divine guarantee that if we do the right things we will get the results we want. There is rogue suffering in our world. And sometimes our vocation finds us right in the middle of it.

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