The riddle is . . .
God is all powerful
God is good
Bad things happen
As the riddle goes you can reconcile any of the two propositions, but you can’t reconcile all three. When we label something a riddle, we’ve already telegraphed that the answer, if you can come up with it, will be a challenge. By calling it a riddle we have also proposed there is indeed an answer. There may not be, needs to be considered as a possible answer.
If you have any mileage on your tires you know life is a mixed bag. Sometimes you’re the windshield and at times you’re the bug. Jesus warned us in the book of John, “In this world you will have trouble.” Which too many sounds like an understatement not a warning.
If God granted preferential treatment to the folks who came to church, church attendance would be the new health plan. If we surveyed the hospitals would we learn 75% of the beds are occupied by the unbeliever? If coming to church kept us out of the hospital don’t you think we’d be putting out folding chairs on Sunday morning?
Things happen regardless of person’s religious habits. Let’s try to remove some of the mystery from this subject.
Some tragedies come our way due to our own decisions. If we end up addicted to a substance and end up in rehab or destroy our liver or have lung cancer there is no riddle. You’re not Job, you’re Cain.
Some of our problems can be traced back to other people. If you or a loved one are in a fatal accident when a drunk driver crosses the yellow line and hits you, you are a victim of another’s irresponsible behavior. In a world like ours, our decisions affect others.
Then there are times when a much needed rain comes and with it comes lighting strikes and people die and property is damaged. This is not good, but it is no mystery,
Of course there is also socially engineered evil. Stalin and bin Laden come to mind, but there is also Jeffery Dahmer, rapist and child molesters. People who spread evil like a cough spreads germs. As Frankenstein warned us, monsters are not born they are created.
I can’t account for all of the destruction and tragedy in the world but I am trying to say it’s hard to consider it a riddle when much of it is not so mysterious.
Buddhism answer to the problem in the law of cause and effect and reincarnation. Christian Science answer is that evil only exist as an illusion. Christianity only points to the cross and says, “there is no evil so dark and so obscene . . . not even this . . .that God can turn it to good” (Buechner, Wishful Thinking, p 24).
Without an answer what do we offer? In short we all are riddled with sin and in need of God’s presence. God does not reveal the grand plan but he does reveal himself. To some this is not much of an answer or much consolation, but to others it is grace sufficient for the day.