Tuesday, September 4, 2012

He's Always Working

In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macduff says, "Every morn, new widows howl, new orphans cry and new sorrows strike heaven on the face." Can you feel the impact of that?
      One of the beautiful things about poetry is that it is compressed language, a verbal time bomb. With only a few words, with a few strokes of the pen, Shakespeare unleashes volumes of raw sentiment, emotion and philosophy. He's saying that with every loss, with every tear, with every illness, and with every injustice there is an assault on the face of God, on the character of God. Every evil, every heartache strikes heaven on the face and says with clenched fists, "God does not exist. God does not care. God is not good."
     This is probably the most pervasive perspective on evil and suffering and the existence of God today. This is what our culture believes.  The logic can be framed like this: If evil and suffering exist but God does not stop it, he may be all powerful but he is not good. If evil and suffering exist but God cannot stop it, he may be good but he's not all powerful. Either way, the good and all powerful God of the Bible cannot be. It's a powerful argument. What do we say?
       Here's the second perspective on questions of God's presence in the dark times of life. In C.S Lewis' The Great Divorce a character named George MacDonald says, "Ah, the Saved … what happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water."
     Lewis is saying is that God has a funny way of working through suffering to bring about incredible blessing.
      One of the really great things about the story of Ruth is the absence of any miracles.  There are no big fish or burning bushes. There are no dreams, no voices, and no revelations. There are no explicit, overt interventions from God. There are no dramatic answers to prayer. There's just a group of people trying to live and survive. They see nothing but mundane times and hard times. They make decisions about where to live and what to eat—just like us. But when you read it, you see that God is still powerfully at work, under the surface and behind the scenes, maybe, but he is still at work.  It was God who broke the famine and opened the way home.  It was God who preserved a kinsman redeemer to continue Naomi's line.  It was God who convicts Ruth to stay with Naomi.  And it was God who led Ruth to Boaz. God was constantly at work. That's the irony of the text. Naomi doesn't see it. Ruth doesn't see it. Boaz doesn't see it. But we, the reader, from our outside perspective—we see it. God is in every scene, every act, and every movement of this play. He is right there in their sorrows and in their joys. There are invisible fingerprints and footsteps in the sand all over the story.
     We must learn to see the signs of hope that he's constantly working even when it seems like he's silent. One scholar put it like this: God is most powerfully present even when he seems most conspicuously absent. He's always working.   You must never lose hope no matter what's going on in your life because God is doing 10,000 things for his glory and your good even when he appears to be absent and not listening.
     It would be nice to have a miracle, but if you need a miracle in order to believe that God is real and is involved in our world, what kind of faith do you really have?  I mean, we know God is real, we believe God is involved, but a miracle—well, that would remove all doubt, now wouldn’t it?  Perhaps.  But it would also remove the need for faith.  Certainty is the opposite of faith, which means that uncertainty is essential for faith.  And the righteous live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4), and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
     What we need is not more miracles, just more faith.

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