Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | September 4, 2009


     I have been reading Dave Eggers’ What is the What, a novel about one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. There are many things about this story that intrigue me but I have insufficient space to share all of my thoughts on this powerful and engaging novel. However, there is one issue brought to mind by this novel that touches many of us – how do we maintain faith in God during times of crisis?

     Thankfully, most of us will never experience a crisis like the one experienced by the Lost Boys and Girls of the Sudan but many people do have experiences that test one’s faith. How do we maintain trust and faith in God when terrible things are happening to us and/or those around us? This dilemma is one of the greatest challenges of being a Christian. People often ask, “Where is God, why is God allowing this?” Many people offer answers but rarely is any answer satisfying and some so called answers are annoying platitudes and others are downright offensive. I wish I could offer a definitive answer that would enlighten the world but I can’t. I can, however, offer my understanding and hope that it will be helpful.

     Starting from the beginning, God gave freedom to all of Creation. God could have chosen to be the great puppet master and control everything, God could have created a universe that was nothing more than a big organic plaything so God could play with us like toys, or God could have set up the universe so that it was God’s slave with every movement, every thought, every event carefully ordered by God. But God didn’t do that because God loves Creation and wants it to self-actualize. God wants us to be the best we can be, to love freely, to experience genuine happiness, and to share in the peace and joy of being in a loving and respectful mutual relationship with God. This would not be possible if we were puppets, toys, or slaves – true love cannot exist in such a state of bondage. God has chosen to empower us rather than overpower us.

     God gave us some basic rules to live by so we could experience all the good things that God desires for us. The rules are pretty basic – love God, love your neighbor, be kind, be just, be merciful, and be forgiving – it’s not rocket science. God provided some extra details on how to do this and inspired people to write the Bible so people could look this stuff up. God even had Jesus come to earth and re-educate us because we weren’t getting it. We have what it takes for the world to be a great place for every person and every creature to live but the freedom God gave us runs amuck sometimes.

     Nature is free to get out of control and people are free to get out of control too. We can’t have freedom and be controlled by God at the same time and this is where life gets sticky. Stuff happens, real bad stuff. I’m confident that God isn’t happy about all the bad stuff but God chooses not to swoop in and take control because to do so would require taking away our freedom and making us puppets, or toys, or slaves. We can’t have it both ways, we can’t be free and have God control everything (or the select things we want controlled), so we have to deal with the downside of freedom. It sucks sometimes and I believe God suffers with us when we’re suffering. God knows what suffering is like because God experienced it when Jesus was tortured to death.

     We have our freedom and God is there to help us through the consequences of that freedom. We are never abandoned, God can be counted on to be there with us while we’re suffering. God is always available to offer us comfort, strength, and courage but we have to be willing to accept it. I know that’s not very satisfying for most people, it’s probably not the answer you wanted to hear, but I know this is true. I have experienced God’s comfort, as have others, and you can too. God is always reaching out to you in love, please accept the offer.

Grace and peace.


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