In which I write of Spectacular Sins, tornadoes and tragedy

Lisa pulls no punches in this week’s discussion of Spectacular Sins, Chapter 4. She asks us to address the following scenario:

You are in a coffee shop reading your Bible. A stranger sits beside you and
asks, “How can you believe in a God who allows terrorists to fly into towers or
children to starve and die?”

Interestingly enough, as I type this, tornado sirens are blaring (though I never can tell between the warning blares and the “all clear” blares). I have the tv on, the weatherman trying to mask his excitement as he describes wind shears and velocity echoes.

I just got up to take a quick glance at the tv where the weatherman warns me the rotation may arrive in my vicinity in 18 minutes.

Live blogging a tornado warning, what a gig.

Anyway, as I wait for the “rotation,” I wonder how I would react should there really be a rotation and should it cut a swath through my neighborhood or, God forbid, my kids’ schools. I am not one who gets nervous, though I do have my shoes on and plan to make a quick dive for the pantry under the stairs should I hear anything remotely resembling a train. I am not frightened but still I know that the possibility is there and I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little uneasy.

Now the thought occurs to me…those tornado sirens sound eerily similar to a train…will I know the difference?

Back to Lisa’s question and my own stray thoughts. What if tragedy were to come? What would I say about my God? My faith? How could I believe in a God who permitted such tragedy? Or did He permit it? Does permitting it somehow violate His love? Can both be true: a God of love and a God who permits tragedy and evil and starvation and terrorism and cruelty and suffering?

What would I say to that? What would you?

Typing off the top of my head, what with the rotation heading my way and all, my first thought is this: our understanding of God’s sovereignty is closely tied to our understanding of our depravity. Questions like “How can God allow a tsunami that kills tens of thousands of people?” presupposes that we deserve something, namely life. The thing is, we will die. Death is no respecter of persons and, until Jesus returns, the only question is how and when. God hasn’t promised any one of us an easy passing (nor an easy living, for that matter).

So far, no rotation. Nor even a drop of rain, for that matter. Only intermittent sunshine, interestingly enough.

Continuing the stream of consciousness mode of blogging…what God has told us quite clearly in the Bible is that our sin condemns us. In our depravity, we deserve death–you, me, my kids. That we have breath for this day is only due to the grace of our sovereign God. Life is His gift.

So, why all the evil and tragedy in the world? Where is God in that? We can’t ask the question thinking God somehow owes us something, that we have rights, that we are deserving of anything other than death. As Piper says, we are to “beware of bringing to the Bible assumptions that are not taught in the Bible. That is how God’s Word is nullified.” (p. 56)

Just got the “all clear,” at least from the weatherman. Still unclear on the various siren signals.

So, again to quote Piper, “God sees to it that all things serve to glorify his Son. Whether he causes or permits, he does so with purpose.” (p. 56) As difficult as it is, we

“do not make him what he is by thinking a certain way about him…we don’t make
him. He makes us. We don’t decide what he is going to be like.
He decides what we are going to be like. He created the universe, and it
has the meaning he gives it, not the meaning we give it. ” (p. 57)

In other words, we must be careful in assuming God must ___ or ought to _____ because He is _____. All we know about Him we find in His Word; yes, that He is loving and kind and compassionate, but also that He permits calamities and persecutions. We must realize that His ways are beyond figuring out. As the created, we cannot fully understand the Creator.

What if destruction came today? What there had been a tornado and I was left with nothing but devastation? Could I say with Job, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord”? These are hard truths, no doubt about it. Life is just plain hard. Struggles come. Tragedy happens. When faced with things that are difficult to understand, things we cannot know, our faith is strengthened as we cling to the things we can know. Truths like God’s goodness and mercy. Things like He knows and He sees. That He has purpose and a plan. There are no surprises to Him.

We can believe and know that He is working all things in order to achieve our good and Christ’s glory.

It’s an inadequate metaphor, but I think of my oldest son when he was a little guy, maybe a year old, and he had a fascination with the road. He wanted to be out there in the great blue yonder that was our street. He could not understand the pain inflicted on his backside by his daddy each time he cruised that direction. But what he couldn’t know was that his daddy had a purpose for the pain; namely, his protection. He only perceived the hurt. However, several years later my son was able to venture out on the street, to ride his bike, to go to a friend’s house, to play a game of street football. There was a plan.

Even in the most difficult of circumstances and the most heartbreaking of pains, there is a plan. There is a purpose. God is good. He holds all things in His omnipotent, sovereign hand. Though I do not understand fully, it is enough. In this I rest.

Sun’s out. All severe weather has blown over (literally). I will go pick my kids up from school, humbled and grateful that I have been spared yet another day.


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

8 thoughts on “In which I write of Spectacular Sins, tornadoes and tragedy”

  1. This is a specular post.I’m not quite sure where to pinpoint where it grabs me but I FEEL wild weather and inner peace all at the same time in a really, well, spectacular way.

  2. Awesome. I almost used the example of pulling the kids out of the street!Glad you didn’t have to live out the truth of grace in the midst of tragedy today.

  3. a. I’m glad you didn’t get sucked up by a tornado while you were typing this post.b. I simply have to get this book. But it’ll probably take me a year to work through it, with all the deep thinking that’s necessary!c. Our pastor was just saying on Sunday that there’s been a radical shift since “days of old” in how mankind looks upon himself. There used to be an assumption that “God is God” (or even, paganly, “the gods are the gods”) and it’s man who must defend himself or explain himself or seek justification. Now, in our present time and culture, mankind is “inherently good” and deserves a “fair” life, etc. And we put God on the defensive — insisting that He explain himself or justify himself. In other words, yes, our assumptions are all messed up, which mightily confuses the issue of evil in this world.

  4. I remember asking this question of FirstHusband (then LastBoyfriend) in a time when I was learning why I believe what I believe – after being told what to believe by youth pastors for so long. So much to consider. Not just my own understanding, but in this scenario, the opportunity to share God’s grace to someone who was seeking. I would pray for God to speak through me because that person is probably already predisposed to disagree with my response. Food for thought. I need to get this book.

  5. Wow! Lisa you have nailed this so well. “What we believe about depravity” is the key. Thank you, thank you, thank you for a clear articulate answer to a difficult question. And to do it in a tornado warning to boot! What talent.

  6. Excellent post, Lisa! I’ll probably have to go back and read it again to really think this through.It strikes me, though, that to ask “How could God do that?” makes God out to be someone who is there to serve us, rather than the other way around. You are absolutely right when you say that this question is closely tied to our depravity. When we get down to who we really are–people called to serve a holy God–these questions to take on less significance, I think.

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