A bit overdue…

Posted on February 10, 2013

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gpicone at IPledgeAFAllegiance comments:

“I’m not doubting that prayer makes a person feel better but what would you tell an amputee who prays to have his arm grow back? Is he/she being ridiculous? why or why not?”

in response to my False Teachers post.

I don’t know how to answer this.

I mean, I kind of know how to answer it. But there are many answers. This is a question that’s been around since at least the beginning of Christianity. It probably existed in the minds of theologians and philosophers long before that. It stems from a basic question: why is there suffering in the world? More specifically, if there is there a good god/deity/power/etc., why is there pain? And since the question has been around for a long time, a lot of people have attempted to answer it.

I cannot offer all the answers. I can’t even summarize the major ones without some serious investigation (and so far, my efforts have led me to mostly skeptic websites). What I can do is offer my answer.

Who am I? These are words in one of the greatest musicals of all time: Les Miserables. At one time I knew every word to every song. I can probably recall them even today. And I must take a moment to plug the movie. If you haven’t seen it, you must. It’s  amazing. Anyone who says otherwise has their head up their ass and we should take pity on them. Anyone who agrees with me is an intelligent, observant human being and we should applaud their existence.

Anyway, who am I? Ask yourself this question: who are you to question God? What gives you the right to look to the Almighty and say, “How can you let these people suffer?” Do you believe you have a monopoly on knowledge? That you Know the answer to everything in this world? God works in mysterious ways, goes the cliché, because He exists outside of everything He created. He knows the past, present and future. He has ultimate knowledge and is in a better position to judge decide what works best for everyone involved.

He created everything. He created you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

–Psalms 139:13-16

He has a plan.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

–Jeremiah 29:11

I came to this understanding through the past decade. I graduated high school in 2000 and spent a few years living paycheck-to-paycheck. I didn’t like my jobs, I didn’t like myself, I didn’t like my life. I stayed out of trouble, but only just. Eventually I realized that, if I wanted to get anywhere in life, I needed to make a change. I decided to go to school, but I didn’t have a way to pay for it. That’s when God stepped in, and it’s one of two times in my life when I can say I truly felt His presence. He told me to join the Army Reserves and use the benefits to pay for school. Now, I know that God compelled me to make that change because I was terrified at the thought of going Army. I had always said I would never enlist. I was a pacifist, a Liberal, an anarchist — I had no clue, in other words. And so I was scared. The organization, the restrictions and the physical demands of the army were outside my comfort zone. It was, in short, the last thing I would ever have thought to do. The only explanation possible, in my mind, is that God changed my mind.

And it was the right choice. I am where I am today because of that decision. It involved a lot of suffering on my part, but it was for a good end.

Why won’t God heal amputees? For me, the answer lies in our inability to comprehend the full scope of God’s knowledge. Our relationship with God is the relationship between a character in a book and the book’s author. The character knows only what it knows at any given point in the book. Flip to any page and you can gleam the full extent of the character’s knowledge. But the author knows what has come before and what will come to be for that character. That character is static, never changing from page to page, moment to moment except where the reader perceives a change. We are different in that we perceive the change in ourselves (through the passage of time and our memory of the past). But we are the same in that we cannot see the whole picture of our lives. God, like the author, can see it. He can see everything and He knows everything about us.

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Posted in: Philosophy, Religion