Monday, January 25, 2010

Why? (Part 1)

I've been stewing about this post for well over a week, since shortly after I learned about the earthquake disaster in Haiti.  Though I have no connections to that area of the world, beyond the tie that humanity lends us all, the news of that quake really affected it did many of us.  Even prior to the earthquake, this was a very fragile place in the world; now, it is a fragile place that has been shattered (again) by disaster.

The question that went through my mind shortly after I heard the news is this: why did this happen?  More specifically, how could God allow this kind of disaster to happen - haven't these people gone through enough?  I imagine that people all over the world have been asking this same question.

A number of years ago, I asked this question in another circumstance, and an acquaintance of mine asked me, with a degree of incredulity, how I could ask such a question, given that I was a Christian.  My answer, both then and now, is this:  Why shouldn't I ask this question?  Does it belittle my faith, belittle God, if I have questions?  Can my faith not bear a few tough questions?  If I'm not able to find an answer to all of my (gazillion) questions, does that mean that my faith can no longer be valid or real?  My perspective is that the question how could God allow this kind of disaster to happen to these poor people? is a question best asked by someone who believes in him.  I'll go even further: I think that just asking the question presupposes a belief in God - if one doesn't believe in God, or in a God, why bother asking the question at all - natural disasters are then happenstance, the product of chance or fate or whatever other name one might choose to label it by.  Thus, I think it's someone who does believe in God who can and should ask this question.  I know it's scary (for me, at least) to ask these tough kinds of questions, but let's go there anyway, and see where we end up.  Let's ask some hard questions and stretch our faith, regardless of what that faith looks like, just a little, by daring to ask.  It's ok if we don't have all of the answers - I know that I won't!

First, let me put a bit of myself on the line here, by saying the following about what I believe, as a person of faith; specifically, as a Christian:
  • I believe, down in my guts somewhere, that God is both omnipotent and omniscient...all powerful and all knowing.  If this is true, it means that God had control over whether or not that earthquake would happen in Haiti.  
  • I believe that God created and loves every single person on earth, whether or not those very same individuals choose to believe in or love him in return.  This perspective, then, leads me to assume that he created and loves every last man, woman and child in Haiti (whether or not they believe in him) every bit as much as he created and loves me.
  • Finally, I believe that God knows us and that he cares about us and our futures as individuals.  Following my own belief, this would infer that he knows, and wants the best for, every man, woman and child in Haiti, every bit as much as he knows and wants the best for me.
These are big statements.  Big assertions.  Somehow, I need to be able to integrate these three elements of my faith in the context of things like Haiti...I need to make sense of them.  How can an all powerful and all knowing God love Haitian people and care about them as individuals and still allow an earthquake to further decimate them?  I have no pre-formed or pre-conceived answers to my question, no set determination as to how this post will play itself out.  I have no idea, even now as I'm about to write it, what words my next paragraph will contain; all I know is that I want to explore this.

Well, here's the first thing that comes to my mind, so it will be my starting point...

From a purely logical perspective, and even though I'm the one who just put the question out there, it seems to me that the question about why God would allow this to happen to Haiti is somewhat artificial - or at least not complete...not big enough.  Because if the question is 'just' about an earthquake happening in Haiti, then my mind screams out other questions:  well, if not in Haiti, should the earthquake have happened somewhere else in the world - somewhere else that would be somehow more deserving?  And where would that place be:  somewhere with terrorists?  somewhere where the people are wealthy enough to be able to rebuild after catastrophe strikes? somewhere that hasn't had a natural disaster for a while, to sort of share disasters on a more equal basis?  And who would decide which country would undergo the disaster?

You see where this kind of thinking can take you.  So the question of why God allowed the earthquake to strike Haiti doesn't seem big enough.  I'm thinking that my question about why God allowed this to happen in Haiti is really a subset of a bigger question that I know we all ask at times, regardless of faith orientation:  (assuming that God exists) Why does God allow bad things to happen at all?  Why does he allow suffering?  It's a question that I've often heard asked by atheists, who are unable to provide proof that God doesn't exist and so rely on (great) philosophical questions such as this one.  But really, don't we all wonder this once in a while?  Isn't that really the question?

Right now, I'm thinking that this question needs a bit of thought and attention.  This post has just become part one of a series of two or more posts.  I'm not sure whether my follow-up post will appear tomorrow or in two days or in two weeks.  But it's gonna come...not with definitive conclusions, but with my current thoughts on the matter, whatever they may be.  In the meantime, what do you think the answer to the question is??

To be continued...


  1. you brave woman, you..
    This is such a struggle isn't it? Right now I have just begun reading "If God is Good" by Randy Alcorn-I'll let you know how it goes.

    This is a link from his blog, and an article (wth other links) that I really appreciated.
    I know that God is good. He loves us. And He sees the big picture. He wants each of us to have a saving relationship with Him, thru His Son, Christ Jesus. Why do bad things happen? Doesn't it come back to sin in the world? The world God created was perfect, with no sickness, no sadness, no natural disasters, and yet man in his free will, chose to change that with sin-my hope, our hope, can be that we will someday live again in a home with no suffering, no sadness, no tears, no loss. That is what I cling to. In the face of such suffering as Haiti, yes, we MUST ask those questions, imo..otherwise our faith is blind, or weak, or all the things that Christians are sometimes accused of. God is big enough.
    I am probably rambling on, as I tend to do, lol! But you're so right-God is good. God is all-powerful and all-knowing. God desires for each of us to know Him (for our sakes!). God loves each and every one of us. If that is our foundation, we don't have to be afraid to ask the big questions.

  2. Ruth,
    Hello there again. I have wondered that question many many times in my life! And many times in the last few weeks! Why? The answer I keep coming back to is I don't know! I don't know why God allows suffering. I don't know why He allows some people to die and saves others. Why do some people suffer all the way through life, and others seem to have very few problems at all! It is a Question that I can't wait to ask God when I reach heaven!
    One thing I have heard in the last few weeks is that God works in strange ways. Or Look at all the world pitching in to help. Or He is using this as a way to show and do miraculous things. ABSOLUTELY, none of those are helpful! At lest to me. But, I do look forward to reading the responses from other readers.

  3. Thanks Darci, Hilary -
    I appreciate the input and am really hoping that others participate in this conversation. You're thinking along the lines that I'm thinking, but I have a feeling I'll struggle to get my thoughts into the next post I write on this topic. What was I THINKING, writing this one!!?

    Have a great day, guys.


    PS. thanks for the link, Darci