The Indifference of God
|In the wake of September 11 and the terrible
tragedy that struck us all, I have spoken with a number of people of
faith who are feeling that life is futile. Death and destruction
by evil has a way of bringing life's values up for questioning.
What is the real meaning of life? What is really worth spending my
time on? Should we "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we
die."? Or, is there a greater purpose for us all? Even
our heroes of faith in the Bible felt this futility. I think of
Elijah who had experienced the great fire of God consuming the sacrifice
to prove that our God is a Living God. Then just shortly after,
when he was pursued by his enemies, he lay down with a sense of futility
and asked that God take his life.
How are we to understand a God who creates this world, lives in it and among us and yet allows evil to hurt innocent people? If we are honest, we must admit that there seem to be times when God appears to be indifferent. The book of Job poignantly addresses the nagging question of God's apparent indifference. Job challenges God to explain his suffering. Job's friends condemn him as if it was Job's own sin that brought his suffering on himself. All our questions and theories about unjust, undeserved suffering get raised in this most ancient of our scriptural documents.
At long last, after many chapters, God responds to Job. The scripture says, "Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind." We pause in our reading of Job and breathlessly await the answer to all our questions about unjust suffering. Surely God will help Job understand why devastation upon devastation as occurred to all his family while he has been struck by chronic, painful illness.
Strictly from an intellectual point of view, God's response challenges Job to look beyond his own suffering to the greatness of creation. God demonstrates the Creator's power and authority in bringing forth life. Can Job do as much God asks? As readers we may be glad to see God standing up to Job, challenging him to get off his "high horse" and consider to whom he is talking.
Personally, however, I don't think it mattered what God said in
response to Job. What mattered was that God came into intimate
contact with Job and demanded intimate dialogue. At a very dark
time in my life, when my dreams had crumbled for the "nth"
time, I turned to Job and found the book a great comfort. Here was
someone who knew my situation, who knew what to say to God, how to
confront and challenge God when nothing made sense. When I reached
the passage where we are told "God answers Job," I experienced
one of those profound graced moments of God's touch. In an instant
I knew deep in my "knower" that Job was profoundly comforted
in God's appearance. It is that which we need in the face of what
appears to be God's indifference--God's manifestation.
|What they have to say can be very helpful,
and it is worth reading what we can. What is more helpful,
however, is a personal encounter with this God we desire. Our God, our
Living God, still comes to us, makes the Creator known to us personally,
in sometimes simple and ordinary ways, and sometimes in a flash of inner
insight. Sometimes God comes invisibly, inaudibly, deep in the
darkness of our hearts whispering of a mysterious Love that we only
recognize through a blind intuition.
Don't waste your energy and tangle up your mind trying to answer the question, "Why?". Oh, go ahead and read what you can, talk to the "experts." It will help the mind to some extent. Then consider what someone has said, "Life is not a problem to be solved; it is a mystery to be lived." Instead of asking "why?", in season and out of season, talk to God and wait for a response. Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are burdened and I will give you rest." It is in the coming to God, in being with God in silence and prayer, that God's touch is often realized. Our Jesuit friends suggest a pattern of prayer like this:
1. Ask God for a grace--real help for my inner struggle.
If you will make this a regular practice, keeping notes on the graces requested, the scriptures meditated upon, the conversation with God and your reflection following, I think you will make a remarkable discovery. God's "being" answers our deepest questions and longing for meaning. In the words of Belden Lane, author of The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, "To find oneself expended--lost at the end of the trail, without hope of return--and to be met there unexpectedly by grace is the soul's deepest longing."
Nancy Pfaff, MA, is a Spiritual Director in the Northern Nevada Diocese. She meets with all who desire to find more meaning and abundance in their faith lives. Call her for more information, (775) 560-3030.