In the previous two postings I contended that God is not a vengeful, angry, domineering old man, but someone who loves us unconditionally and became flesh in the humble, gentle Jesus. But if this is so, then how do we recognize the true God when we encounter the Lord in the midst of suffering and evildoing? Let me begin my answer with a story.
When I was a boy of about ten our family took a ride out to the Delaware Water Gap, a scenic site where the Delaware River has carved a graceful path between two mountains. Landscape artists have been depicting its graceful curves for centuries. As we were standing on a wide pathway alongside the river at the bottom of the Gap a gentleman came up and asked, "Pardon me. Can you tell me where I could find the Delaware Water Gap?" With commendable kindness my father told the man that we were standing in the Delaware Water Gap right now. The disappointed tourist was completely crestfallen. "You mean this is IT?" "Yes," we assured him, "you're looking at the Delaware Water Gap." I've never forgotten the look of disappointment on his face. As he walked away, head hung in disappointment, we all speculated on just what he might have been expecting to see at the Delaware Water Gap. The lesson was not lost on me: it's a good idea to know something about what you're looking for before you set out to look for it.
So as we set about looking for the God of Troubled Times, here are a few pertinent questions:
1. Are you looking for a God who you can understand, and who fits neatly inside your own world-view?
2. Are you looking for a God whose actions inevitably make sense to you?
3. Are you looking for a God who answers all of your questions satisfactorily?
4. Are you looking for a God who is "nice?"
If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions then you're not likely to recognize the God of our Fathers in the midst of your pains and sorrows. You'll be like that poor tourist standing along the Delaware looking in vain for the Water Gap.
We've already approached the question of God and Suffering on this blog a couple of times (e.g. April 28, 30, 2009), and I'd suggest you might want to go back and take a look at them. While you're doing that I'll be thinking about where I'm going to go with the rest of this entry. Maybe I'll drive out to the Delaware Water Gap...