Friday, April 20, 2012

Pondering Good Grief, Part 2

Yesterday I said I would post the portion of Ben Witherington's article in Christianity Today that I would like to interact with over the course of a few blog posts. Here it is:

Was This God's Will?

From the day Christy died, I was determined to be open to whatever positive thing there might be to glean from this seeming tragedy. I clung to the promise of Romans 8:28, that "God works all things together for good for those who love him."

The first point immediately confirmed in my heart was theological: God did not do this to my child. God is not the author of evil. God does not terminate sweet lives with a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are a result of the bent nature of this world. As Ann kept repeating, "God is not the problem; he is the solution."

One primary reason I am not a Calvinist is that I do not believe in God's detailed control of all events. Why? First, because I find it impossible to believe that I am more merciful or compassionate than God. Second, because the biblical portrait shows that God is pure light and holy love. In him there is no darkness, nothing other than light and love. And third, the words, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away," from the lips of Job (1:21), are not good theology. According to Job 1, it was not God but the Devil who took away Job's children, health, and wealth. God allowed it to happen, but when Job said these words, as the rest of the story shows, he was not yet enlightened about the true nature of the source of his calamity and God's actual will for his life. God's will for him was for good and not for harm.

The beginning of "good grief" starts with the premise of a good God. Otherwise, all bets are off. If God is almighty and malevolent, then there is no solace to be found in him. If God is the author of sin, evil, suffering, the Fall, and death, then the Bible makes no sense when it tells us that God tempts no one, that God's will is that none should perish but have everlasting life, and that death is the very enemy of God and humankind that Jesus, who is life, came to abolish and destroy.

Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). If there are promises I cling to as I weep for our Christy, it is this promise, not the sorry solace and cold comfort of, "God did this but we do not know why." No! A thousand times, no. God and his will are aligned with what is good and true and beautiful and loving and holy.

Days later, as I stood before the casket and stared at our "Christy girl," as we called her, I was so thankful that the God of the Resurrection had a better plan for her. Her lifeless body was so cold, so empty. The phrase, "It's all God's will," is cold comfort. I believe in a God whose "Yes!" to life is louder than death's "No!" Death is not God's will. On the contrary, God is in the trenches with us, fighting the very same evils we fight in this world—disease, suffering, sorrow, sin, and death itself. He cries with us.

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