“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3, NIV).
“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45, ESV).
If nature’s laws were not universal and consistent, science would be impossible. Experiments are worthless if we cannot be assured that the same thing will happen again under the same conditions. Without universal laws of nature, life would be chaotic and very difficult (if it would be possible at all). What if water boiled at 100 degrees celsius today, but under the same conditions tomorrow it wouldn’t boil until it reached twice that temperature? Actually, we wouldn’t even have the celsius scale to measure it, since celsius is calibrated according to the freezing and boiling points of water! What if the magnetic North Pole moved around randomly? Compasses wouldn’t work. What if gravity fluctuated erratically? Let’s say gravity suddenly became the same strength on earth as it is on the moon, then a week later it was equivalent to Neptune? If I weigh 180 lbs on earth, I’d weigh just 30 lbs (yes, thirty!) when gravity shifted to Moon-Strength, and I’d weight a whopping 3,078 lbs (one and one-half tons!) when Neptune-Strength gravity kicked in. Aren’t you glad we live in a world where nature is consistent?
Storms, accidents, and natural disasters impact both moral and immoral people. Earthquakes, tornados, droughts: all indiscriminately effect Christians, Jews, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and agnostics; in short, everyone.
Everything in the natural order works according to established laws. God is not the direct (efficient) cause of everything that happens. I’ve heard and read preachers who say that God makes the breeze blow the branches of the trees. When those who believe this way say, “God is in control,” they see him as the immediate cause of everything. The trouble with this micromanaging approach to God’s sovereignty is, it ignores a fundamental reality: we are living on a planet that is separated from God. There is evidence of God’s absence on earth, and this reinforces the argument of the atheist. However, as we’ve seen there is also reason and evidence to believe in the existence of God. So, what’s going on?
The Fall includes, not only human beings, but all of creation:
“the creation was subjected to futility… and bondage to decay…. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:20, 21 & 22).
Only after the Son of God returns to earth to reign over and transform everything and everyone, will life be what it should. Until then, we are living in a broken, dangerous world, a world from which we need to be saved.
I am not advocating deism, the belief that God created everything and then withdrew. God is indeed still in control. He remains all powerful, and all knowing. What I am saying is God’s control over the universe is mediated through the laws of physics and nature that he set up. I do believe that God is omnipresent. However, God’s presence is not manifest to his creation naturally. Again, we can see evidence of God in the order of creation, but we do not naturally perceive God anywhere. He is hidden. “No one has seen God at any time….” It is critical that we understand this in order to answer the question, “Why is there evil in the world?” It is a fallen world, and that extends to every part of creation.
God does sometimes act upon the world by superseding the laws of nature, which we call a miracle. However, he does not regularly interfere in the natural order, not even for good people, not even for his own people. God is unlikely to work a miracle because of the selfish prayers of someone who feels entitled to have things their way! I don’t believe God makes it a habit of changing the outcome of a football game because I pray for my favorite team, nor will he make it stop raining just so my family may have a nice picnic. Our prayers need to be less selfish.
“If the course of nature is the work of an intelligent Being, should we not expect that he would vary the course of nature only infrequently at times of great importance?”
“That God can and does, on occasions, modify the behaviour of matter and produce what we call miracles, is part of the Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore, stable, world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare.”
“But if matter is to serve as a neutral field it must have a fixed nature of it’s own.
“If a ‘world’ or material system had only a single inhabitant it might conform at every moment to his wishes– ‘trees for his sake would crowd into a shade.’
“but if you were introduced into a world which thus varied at my every whim, you would be quite unable to act in it and would thus lose the exercise of your free will.”
“In a game of chess you can make certain arbitrary concessions to your opponent, which stand to the ordinary rules of the game as miracles stand to the laws of nature. You can deprive yourself of a castle, or allow the other man sometimes to take back a move made inadvertently. But if you conceded everything that at any moment happened to suit him– if all his moves were revocable and if all your pieces disappeared whenever their position on the board was not to his liking– then you could not have a game at all.
“So it is with the life of souls in a world: fixed laws, consequences unfolding by causal necessity, the whole natural order are at once the limits within which their common life is confined and also the sole conditions under which any such life is possible.”
(C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp, 31-32)
God may act without superseding or suspending the laws of nature. Instead, as the master of time and space, he has arranged for things to occur in a specific order with a specific purpose in mind. We may call such activity providence. We can see that the entire universe is an act of providence. Providence in an individual’s life may be understood to be “a coincidence that God has arranged.” Miracles of providence are common in the lives of believers.
“All things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I believe that is is essential for believers to recognize God’s providential activity, and learn what he has in mind for each circumstance and event in our lives. Further, we can have confidence in a good, loving and powerful God to turn even the worst situation into something that works out for our good and his glory.
Obsessed With Control
Humans have become obsessed with control. We want everything to go our way. Science has been so successful at informing us about the natural world and giving us control over it that we are frustrated when we cannot do so. C.S. Lewis observed a connection between the motives of those who seek to manipulate reality through magic and those who use applied science.
“There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men.”
I think many of us pray for the same reason.
What Did I Do to Deserve This?
There exists a common belief (call it a suspicion, perhaps) that those who are struck by catastrophe or physical infirmity have done something to deserve it. I was told by a devout believer that my hearing loss in one ear is God telling me that I’m not listening. I suppose that could be. I really need to pay attention to God’s leading. However, God has a greater purpose than punishment when bad things happen to us. I have an entire section in this book dedicated to that theme: Not All Suffering is Equal… or Evil.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans in 2005; many people lost their lives and many more lost their homes. Then on the 16th anniversary of Katrina in 2021, hurricane Ida came ashore and took out the power grid of the Big Easy. The entire state of Texas nearly lost its power grid due to freezing temperatures in February of 2021. A tornado swept through Garland and Rowlett the day after Christmas 2015. Were these natural catastrophes sent by God? After all, these kinds of events (tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis) are sometimes called “Acts of God.” Is the Lord trying to say something to us? The Lord is always seeking to lead and teach his people. However, the answer is not as simple as: “God is punishing our sins.” Did these storms and catastrophes only affect the property or take the lives of people who have done something wrong? Hopefully, your answer is “no.”
I am sure good people died and I know that there were Christians in the 2015 tornado who lost everything. Did God work in people’s lives during and after these catastrophes? Yes. The Garland/Rowlett tornado struck the day after Christmas of 2015. That may seem cruel, until you recognize that many people were not home that day. As a result many deaths were likely averted. Did God offer protection to those who were praying and paying attention to his Spirit’s leading? I believe so. We’ll look at that very important aspect to God’s salvation in the next chapter.
Jesus Healing a Man Born Blind
Jesus healed a blind man once, whom the people of his day presumed had done something to deserve it.
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him'” (John 9:2-3, NIV).
God has good reason for allowing natural afflictions and tragedies to occur in people’s lives: so that the Lord’s redemptive work may be observed in and through them. In the case of the man who was born blind that work was the miracle of physical sight that resulted in the revelation of Jesus.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him”
Some years ago member of our church had a stroke and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Those among us who’ve been exposed to this understand the fear, confusion, anxiety and panic a stroke causes in the person who has experienced it. The following is part of a text she sent me.
“I am being humbled and rediscovering the presence of God especially when I panic. The only thing getting me thru a panic attack is his presence and looking at others in the rehab part where I am now I know just how lucky I am and how much God is with me.”
God is at work, friends, even and especially in our darkest moments. He will be with you if you will call on the name of His Son Jesus, and receive His Spirit. “No one has seen God at any time, but the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (John 1:18). God has revealed himself through Jesus. He is the light of the world (John 1:12).
Jesus gave sight to the man born blind, and he will open your eyes too. However, this also demonstrates the spiritual blindness of the religious who claim to know God, but follow their own ways.
“Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” (John 9:39-41, NIV)
Don’t presume to understand why seemingly bad things have occurred in someone else’s life. Trust that God is good and loving, and that he is at work—even when we cannot see it. The world is separated from God by sin, but that doesn’t mean He is not at work in the world. Christ is at work all around us through the Holy Spirit, seeking to save those who are lost. God rested from his work of creation on the seventh day, but Jesus said, “My Father is still working and I am working” (John 5:17).
As a believer, God is working within me to make me like His Son, instead of working for me to make things the way I want them to be. I need to concentrate my prayer life on seeking God’s presence and wisdom to bring me through the storm instead of demanding that he stop it. Do I want “my best life now” instead of praying to my Father, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?” Do I want to be happy when God wants me to be holy? The Father is working to transform me into the image of His Son, and that is a process which involves suffering, self-denial, faith and trial.