July 23, 2014

Michael Newnham: God and Disaster

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Note from CM: We will give the last word on this stormy week to one of our friends.

One of the blogs in our Blogroll that I go to regularly is Phoenix Preacher, Michael Newnham’s simple yet provocative and readable site. He is the author of Make Your Own Application. In the aftermath of the heartbreaking devastation in Oklahoma earlier this week, he wrote one of the best pieces I saw. One line says it all: “…the theologian is no match for a grieving parent.”

I am grateful for his permission to re-post this poignant piece here.

* * *

God and Disaster
by Michael Newnham

I saw the initial reports on Twitter when I was picking up my son after school.

The tornado had hit the town hard, but all were accounted for at the elementary school.

I prayed a silent thanks and took my boy, safe and sound, to his martial arts class.

We have a big tournament coming up this weekend…

Then another report came in…there was another elementary school.

It was devastated…and there were dead children.

I prayed again, but had no words.

My son was the first to ask “why”?

Why if God is good did he allow this to happen?

All Christian traditions have a theodicy, an attempt to explain the existence of evil and pain.

Mine has one too…but theology is small comfort when fitting a casket for a child.

I explain it to an 11 year old…and to myself… this way.

This creation is good, but broken.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 8:18–23 ESV

Sin has broken it and it groans…it cries out for the day when all things will be recreated and set right, just like we do.

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In that state of brokenness and corruption and bondage to sin the creation acts like its inhabitants often do…and tragedy is the result.

We are broken, the earth is broken, it’s all broken…but we know in our spirits that’s not the way it’s supposed to be and we dare confess it’s not the way it will always be.

We groan together under the burden of of sin and the damage it has done and those groans are the cries of our souls for the Creator to return and do His good work over again.

I know that God is truly good, because my spirit knows that all of this is so truly bad…His spirit testifies to mine that this is not how it should be.

Some will speak this morning of judgment and mercy and sovereignty and glory and other things of God… but I will not listen to them speak.

These things are too lofty for me to understand, too fearsome for me to ponder.

I will not pretend to understand.

I will groan and I will weep with those who weep.

I will thank God that I will hug my child and put him on a bus and pick him up and go to practice and if God’s willing we have a big tournament this weekend.

I will know that the plans some will have for this weekend will be for funerals…and I will shiver and hold him all the closer.

That is the best I can do…the theologian is no match for a grieving parent.

Maranatha…come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Comments

  1. There could not be a better response to this tragedy. Thank you for posting it.

  2. Having browsed the comments section of that blog, I can tell that Michael is a very saintly individual indeed.

  3. Rick Ro. says:

    Good stuff. GREAT stuff. I love these thoughts:

    “All Christian traditions have a theodicy, an attempt to explain the existence of evil and pain. Mine has one too…but theology is small comfort when fitting a casket for a child.”

    “I explain it to an 11 year old…and to myself… this way. This creation is good, but broken.”

    “I will know that the plans some will have for this weekend will be for funerals…and I will shiver and hold him all the closer. That is the best I can do…the theologian is no match for a grieving parent.”

    I guess what I get out of this (especially when I combine it with the John Piper mess) is: my theology may provide me with the comfort I need, but it might not provide others with the comfort that THEY need.

  4. As I get older, I find it more difficult to sing songs about how great, awesome, and powerful the God who seemingly does nothing.

    I’m almost at the point of believing that God only intervened in the world, redemptively through Christ. Beyond that we are on our own.

    • Micheal says:

      Dave, I understand where you are coming from because I have felt the very same way. The only thing I have come up with is that all the evil and suffering that we go through will somehow change us into the people God wants us to be. One of my favorite authors has said this “This is not the best world but it is the best way to the best world.” It does not seem like it now but one day we will understand.

  5. “we dare confess it’s not the way it will always be”=faith
    Hang in there Dave.