Don't Blame God for Bad Things

It is hard to write an essay on the goodness of God when there is so much evil in the air. Why did God allow Katrina to disrupt so many lives? That is a natural question for a ten-year old, and even great theologians wrestle with it. How can all-powerful and all-loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?

I don't have all the answers, and I won't tell you that I do. Rabbi Harold Kushner struggled with it, and through simple deductive logic came to a startling conclusion. He reasoned that if God is just, if God is loving, and if God is all-powerful, then such a God couldn't allow bad things to happen to good people. Therefore, either God is not just, or God is not loving, or God is not all-powerful.

The Rabbi had to conclude that, because God is surely just and surely loving, God must not be all-powerful, and therefore God must have limits on what he can do.

His logic is a tough one to refute, and while it might make us feel better about God's loving nature, it is disturbing to think that I'm worshipping somebody who says, "I can't." If he "can't", then who will save us from the mess we are in?

Let me say right now what I truly believe: Katrina was not some kind of divine retribution on anybody. It was a terrible storm that just happened due to the laws of physics. God did not cause it, but neither did God stop it. And the reason why God neither caused nor stopped it can be found in the book of Genesis.

From childhood we were taught that Eve took of the forbidden fruit, and then bad things happened. Maybe the key to understanding our present distress is embedded in the lessons of that incident. 

God gives us the right to choose. He tells us to "choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19), but he coerces no one to make the right choices. This is the essence of freedom. It will be best for us if we choose God's ways, but God wants children, not obedient little puppy dogs. He wants us to follow him because we choose to, not because we have to. 

Adam and Eve had a choice to make: Leave one tree alone or experiment with it. No one was going to stop them from making bad choices, but with choices come consequences. And we find them, after making the wrong choice, hiding - hiding from God! Sometimes we find ourselves asking why God is hiding himself, but in the real world, the human race is hiding from God. God is a gentleman: he won't go where he is not wanted.

Here is the nub of the issue. Genesis 3:17: "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life." That word "ground" can also mean
"earth". Bad things happen sometimes because God is letting the earth take its natural course. Mankind has chosen to go its own way, and therefore God has no compelling need to intervene even though he could. 

Is that unjust? It is not unjust to allow us our own choices.

Is it unloving? Sometimes tough love is the best kind of love.

Does it imply that God is not all-powerful? By no means! It instead shows a God who for his own reasons chooses not to interfere in the affairs of men. After all, we're the ones who hide from him.

Lenny C.

Excerpted from The Sabbath Morning Companion, September 2, 2005, by Lenny Cacchio. 
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