The news in the last couple of days has been about a deadly tornado that hit parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. This story was very poignant as I am from Tennessee. I don’t have the latest death count, but it is at least fifty plus hundreds injured, some of them seriously.
The thing that caught my eye this morning, was listening to the Today Show as they interviewed survivors of the tornado on the campus of Union University, a Southern Baptist school
As I was trying to shave and dress while listening, I could not catch the faces of the students, but I could hear their words. They each talked about the “miracle” of their survival. One described how “God had wrapped her in a cocoon of protection.” Another guy was laughing how God had forced him down (with the walls pushing down on him) into a kneeling position and the message to him was that God wanted him to pray. Each of the students were praising God for protecting them and he was protecting them because they had prayed.
At this moment, allow your mind to wander to the hundreds of people, sitting in funeral homes, hospitals, in broken down houses or in the safe haven or shelters . . . each of who has lost, through a terrible death, a loved one in this storm. Others have suffered intense pain and dismemberment from the storms effects. How does this fit with the Union University interviews? I mean, does it make sense that all these people, who perished, were either not praying right, pissing God off for some reason? I bet many of those, God-fearing, Tennesseans (there in the Bible belt) were praying their hearts out . . . just before the tornado ripped them to pieces, killing them. We . . . I guess I must say “those” evangelicals, such as the UU students, often paint themselves into a theological corner with these types of statements.
One of the worst examples of this was when I was living in northern Michigan. I happened to be working in the Emergency Room during those days. I was not on duty when the dreadful event occurred, but came in right afterwards and heard about it from my colleagues.
A couple in our church had two young boys. I think the youngest was 4, and we will call him Bobby. His parents were going through some marital issues at the time, and had even been separated.
One day Bobby’s dad was in the back yard mowing the yard on his rider. Bobby pushed on the screen door, wanting to go and be with his dad. He pushed until the door came unlatched. Then Bobby ran across the yard. His dad threw the riding mower into reverse and backed over Bobby, slicing his little precious head up into about four pieces.
In the midst of his horror, his dad grabbed up the bloody little body and ran to our ER where he was pronounced dead.
The next Sunday, or church was in grief and horror over the loss of such an innocent life. One of our fellow elders, Robert, went before the church (as he usually did to share prayer requests). As he started to talk about Bobby and his family he paused. He looked out over the crowd of 500 and said loudly, “I don’t care what any one says . . . my God doesn’t make mistakes. He took Bobby home for a purpose and I’m sure it was to teach his parents to depend on Him.” Immediately there were amens and praises being shouted out in the Church.
So God sliced a four-year-old boy’s head up into pieces in order to “teach his parents to depend on Him?” Well, it didn’t work. His parents eventually divorced and left the church in the subsequent year. So if God knows the future, and He knew that they would eventually leave the Church and their marriage, yet God sliced up the little boy’s head anyway . . . then God is a lunatic!
Of course He isn’t, but that’s the crazy box that we put God in. So a plane crashes and 30 people die and two survive. The family of the two says it is because they prayed right???? Hey, something is messed up here.
There is much more I want to say here to solve this riddle. The riddle is that God is 1) sovereign, 2) loving yet . . . there is a place for cause and effect in this wonderful . . . but dangerous world in which He has created.