There are many mysteries in life I can not possibly even begin to comprehend, some of which are the following:
How is light both a wave and a particle?
How can a soul be immortal and still have a moment of origin?
How and why does quantum entanglement occur?
What does it mean to say that the eternal Christ was “begotten by the Father?”
And, what might be the most perplexing mystery of them all…
Why have the Browns been so bad for so long?
While each of these mysteries fit somewhere along the spectrum between simple and impossible, there is another mystery about which I have spent a great deal of time contemplating, which, of all the possible mysteries, this is THE mystery of the ages to which all others pale in comparison.
How is it that God is both our salvation and the cause of so much trouble in this life?
The concept of God as our salvation is not unfamiliar but rarely do we contemplate God’s role in humanity’s suffering. A quick look at Psalm 60 reveals that God seems to take an active role in our trials and tribulations:
You have rejected us God, and burst upon us; you have been angry (v1)
You have shaken the land and torn it open (v2)
You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger (v3)
Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us and no longer go out with our armies (v10)
But these claims are not only found in Psalm 60 Isaiah 45:7 quotes God as saying the following,
I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.
This is clearly not the God of my youth. That God always brought sunshine and daisies into my life, would heal me if only I prayed hard enough, and promised to give me my best life now. But this God, by all human measures, has a dark hand of death and destruction that he wields across the land bringing cancer, Alzheimers, and death in equal measures to both believer and unbeliever. Bankruptcy, divorce, and slavery, earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornados kill and destroy people of every religious persuasion and we are left to draw a conclusion from the evidence: either God does not care, God is evil, God does not exist, or there is something going on that we don’t understand.
Job, after he and his friends debated God’s role in the devastation of his life, finally encounters God speaking to him from, (interestingly enough), the midst of a storm (Job 38:1). God pelts Job with questions, all of which are about the material world and none of which Job can answer. Essentially, God says to Job, “If you can’t understand this natural world in which you live, then how can you possibly understand my motives and actions coming from the spiritual world which lies far beyond your comprehension?” Job’s response to God is short and simple, but one we must not miss. He says “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…my ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
As a child, I was under the impression, mainly because all the adults kept telling me this, that when I get to heaven God will answer all of my questions. But now that I’m older I think that impression was completely wrong. I think that when we get to heaven and stand in the presence of God we will most likely have Job’s response and fall silent, not because we are beaten into submission, but because we realize the ways of God are beyond the ability of a finite creature to understand. While in that moment we might understand the nature of light, the nature of finite immortality, quantum entanglement, Christ’s eternal yet begotten nature, and even why the Browns were so bad, we will probably still not have the capacity to begin to understand God’s active and loving role in death and destruction.
We will stand there, being held by God’s hand of love, knowing that he has kept us from the harm of an eternity without him, providing a rest that no humanly constructed help could have ever provided. But we will also know that God has another hand, a dark hand dealing justice and destruction for purposes we can not possibly begin to comprehend. And as we look back upon the darkest times of our lives, the times when we felt abandoned and left exposed for our enemies to attack, we will know such times were of God’s doing. We will see that the dark hand of God swept harshly across the land carrying us along the tempestuous waves of life to the far side of death where we would rest in God’s loving hand: his other hand that was with us all along, keeping us safe.