Thursday, July 24, 2014

1 Peter 5:7-10 -- On Care and Ambiguity

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."
1 Peter 5:7-10

When bad things happen, we often have a tendency to blame God, or wonder why he allowed bad things to happen.  This is especially true when it is something really bad, like murder or rape or war or genocide.  Some people will say that if God has the power to stop those things from happening that the only reason he wouldn't would be that he doesn't care, or he doesn't have the power, or he doesn't exist.  Many will rail against God saying that if there is a God that could allow things like that, they don't want to believe in him anyway.  ... And perhaps, when we are at our worst, when we are the victims or the family members of people who have suffered irreparable harm, we wonder or think these things as well.  But, as with other things, there are more options than we consider.
When we wish for God to solve all the big problems with a snap of the fingers, we rarely consider what that would mean.  If God stopped the big things, he would have to stop the little things that led up to them, and ultimately, he would have to allow people to act in horrible, atrocious ways without any consequences.  Or send a lighting bolt to kill each of them, but then if we all had that obvious proof that good is good and bad is bad, then that would undermine free agency, and not encourage the more subtle listening to the spirit and praying and all of those things where we need to learn to be sensitive enough to listen to God and understand other people.
When I was teaching General Education classes at a university, one of our goals was to teach students to tolerate ambiguity.  I always thought that was a hard thing to teach, and I wasn't quite sure why... I am not a fan.  But I think maybe this is why... this lesson.  We all have to learn to tolerate uncertainty, and to act anyway.  To realize that there are multiple meanings and myriad interpretations, and to figure it out, even so.  To see all the chaos in the world, and the evil and the good, and to know who is on our side and who isn't, through the confusion.  And as the first verse of this selection says, God *does* indeed care for us.  I don't think that we can actually comprehend how much.  Instead of blaming God for everything bad, let's recognize that he doesn't glory in our suffering, at all.  Satan does that.  God only allows it to teach us, to help us to grow and to become stronger and better people.  Sometimes it kills us, but God knew us before life and he knows us beyond the grave, and he can, and will, ease every burden and heal every wound, even if it isn't during this life.  His power isn't limited to now.   And after we suffer and learn, he'll help us to reach perfection... which we could never do without some pain.  Even he couldn't do it without some pain.
Today, let's not blame God for the ills of the world.  Let's instead, learn from our own suffering, and do what we can to minimize and relieve the suffering of others.  God does care, and he asks us to help.  Let's be his hands and his arms, reaching out to bless other people and make the world that much less painful and less scary.  Even if we can't address all the big things, the difference we make for an individual matters.  Let's trust God, and have faith in his love for us, and find our way to him, despite the cloud of ambiguity. :)

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