Is God to Blame?

As news of the terrible events in Christchurch, New Zealand, spread yesterday we noticed a huge increase in the use of our email prayerline. Many emails were simply requests for prayer for all who had been affected, but a considerable number expressed other concerns. There were those who demanded to know how God could permit such a thing; others who wanted to proclaim that they had given up on God since God had clearly given up on them; and a few who used the opportunity to ridicule our beliefs with a spattering of swear-words and wholly unoriginal gibes.

When people are hurting they need a hug, not an argument; and it is my belief that everyone who wrote in was indeed hurting. Some just didn’t know what to do with their hurt. The questions they asked deserve an answer, however, though I know the answers I’ll give will not be acceptable to everyone.

Why did God not prevent the massacre in Christchurch? That is a perfectly legitimate question but it takes us into territory many find uncomfortable. We can say all we like about God having dignified us with the gift of free will and of his permitting us to use or abuse that freedom as we choose. It doesn’t mean much to someone mourning the death of someone they love. The fact that it happens to be true is difficult to grasp, but we must try because it confirms the truly loving nature of God. He respects us; he doesn’t treat us as mere robots he can control at will. In fact, God isn’t interested in controlling us. He has given us all the guidance we need to live happy and fulfilled lives, but he respects the choices we make. If we choose evil, so be it. I call that one of the hard truths of Christianity: the realisation that God is a God of free people, not slaves. Every time we look at a crucifix, we are reminded of that truth. God gave his only Son into our hands, and that is how we treated him, by inflicting death on him.

So, what about those who feel they want to give up on God because they believe he has given up on them? Don’t we all feel like that at times? Didn’t Jesus feel the same on the Cross when he cried out with the psalmist, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. We have to be honest about our anger and despair and let God handle the pain we can’t. Because, of course, it is pain that makes us think and feel that way. If we didn’t care, if we were completely indifferent, we wouldn’t bother, would we?

In this blank, bleak universe I am describing, is there anywhere we can find help or comfort? I think there is. The Communion of Saints is not confined to those already in heaven and who we may safely assume are praying for those of us on earth. It includes the Church Militant, our ‘even Chrstians’ as Julian of Norwich loved to describe them. No matter how dark the events that take place in the world, no matter the depths of evil and depravity that deform the human heart, someone, somewhere is praying to let the light of Christ into the situation. Monks and nuns typically devote their lives to this prayer. We do not claim to be experts; we do not claim to achieve anything; but I believe that God does use our efforts in some way because ultimately it is not we who pray but the Holy Spirit who prays in us.

This morning many are feeling drained and unhappy. There are several people on life-support as a result of yesterday’s shootings; others are mourning the sudden loss of someone they love. We pray for them as we pray for all — for a chink of light to come into the darkness, for hope to take the place of despair. Our ideas of God are frequently too little. May we know how great he is, how involved he is even though he does not act as we would want him to act. In short, may we know how much he loves us.

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12 thoughts on “Is God to Blame?”

  1. ” ……..someone,somewhere is praying to let the light of Christ into the situation. Monks and nuns typically devote their lives to this prayer….”
    Thank you

  2. Some time ago I made a short stay in a convent and when I came back I told a friend how the nuns prayed through the newspaper each morning. Yes, she said, and just think what the world would be like if they didn’t. Thank you for all you do.

  3. As others have said, thank you. It is so easy for us to love the fact of the freedom God gives us until something evil happens. Then all of a sudden it is easier to believe God doesn’t love us or care. We want our freedom of choice, but we can’t have it without everyone having it. We can’t have it both ways. You bring us hard truths about our God, than you again.

  4. I am so relieved that you are able to block negative or abusive posts, not because we need protecting from the reality and honesty of pain, but to lay aside agression so that more of it doesn’t enter our hearts. Let our hearts be filled with prayer for all people suffering and hurting at this time, in whatever way.

  5. Dear Sister Catherine, a beautiful and loving riposte to the doom mongers and naysayers. As l have said before, God does not create the world’s problems but He does have the answers. God is love. Love for all of us.
    Thank you for your wisdom. Peace and love be with you as you struggle with your illness and the treatment. God bless and care for you, xx

  6. Dear Sister, this post is very inspiring. People know that nuns and monks devote their life to prayer, thousand of them. The core of the issue is that we do not feel that the object of these prayers is us individually. When each day you write that you are praying for different situations, some of them most serious and painful, we may know that we belong to these situations. However I am just one among the crowd.
    I have experience hard circumstances in my life. I pray god for help, to be strong and hopeful, but immediately I think: why should God listen to my praiers, just mine, since there are thousands of people going through excruciating pains and cannot find consolation?
    I need to understand deep in my heart that God loves just me, Cinzia, as much as I need to feel that I am personally included in your prayers. It is an important step in faith.
    This is my humble opinion.
    Thank you for your prayers.
    Cinzia, Italy

    • I can only assure you that God does love you, deeply and personally. If you had been the only person in the world, his Son Jesus Christ would still have died for you; and you need never doubt that you are included in our prayer, whether named or not.

  7. Thanks for not ducking the difficult question. No “easy” answers either. Nothing can really explain this sort of pain away. It is hard but prayer and turning to God even (especially?) when there seems no point – is the point.

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