F=ma is a formula we instinctively realise when a heavy object is speeding towards us. No need to explain that F stands for the force that’s going to hit us if we don’t move quickly! Multiplying the mass of an object by its acceleration is a simple law of physics that calculates force accurately. It produces a known outcome that works every time. Not all questions can be solved so simply. As a Minister, I am often asked why God allows, or does, certain things. Why does a good God allow such terrible suffering? Why does one person miraculously recover from illness, but not my loved one? Why do bad people enjoy comfortable lives, while good, honest Mr. X suffers? I read many inspiring explanations for these questions, but rarely do they satisfy the questioner. We may point to certain Scriptures, but usually they will be argued against. If there was a formula to explain God’s actions, however complex, it would make my life easier! There are many ‘tendencies’ I have observed about the way God acts, but no formulaic response. I infer God is a specialist, not a generalist.
In my mind, the answer is simple. God is infinitely beyond our comprehension, wisdom and intelligence. God does what God determines to do. I don’t know why and freely acknowledge I don’t have the full picture. Here’s a Scripture I love which backs up my stance:
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:13, New Living Translation)
Frustrating as it may be for those who want definite answers now, it’s not yet our time for answers to these complex questions. Our intelligence and breadth of knowledge about life and its complex interactions across time, place, people, environment and so much more, is deficient. Personally, I am grateful I don’t need to carry the weight of such decisions.
We are not powerless however. Many people will testify to amazing answers to their prayers. But not every prayer gets a ‘yes’ and we should be grateful for this. Some of these prayers would ill affect us, as a result of the chain of consequences following the course change. As a simple example, if I pray for rain to water my garden in Sydney, where hasn’t it fallen instead? Maybe on the farm that provides my (and many others’) food. So, when I ask, God hears and weighs the answer, and decides. Either way, our faithful response at its best, is gratitude.
The ‘laws’ of physics, and other disciplines, allow for formulae to help us predict outcomes with great success. These laws are a gift to us. But do not assume that everything will fit into a neat formula. Where is the excitement, variety and challenge of that? God offers us a loving relationship, where we may gradually develop an understanding to request outcomes that are often granted. But there is no law involved here, only grace. Let us be thankful for wisdom that surpasses our own.
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.