The Pesky Problem of Theodicy


Job 38, Vs 1-7

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

3 Gird up your loins like a man,

    I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

    Tell me, if you have understanding.

5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

    Or who stretched the line upon it?

6 On what were its bases sunk,

    or who laid its cornerstone

7 when the morning stars sang together

    and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?

 

About two weeks ago I had my blood pressure meds changed.   I have had high blood pressure since I was pregnant with Em – so now 22 years (! Ack.  How can she be 22 already?) and it’s never been well controlled.  My Family Doctor has been pretty emphatic that I need to have my blood pressure under much better control (“Hypertension = Stroke, Lynne.  You need to do this”)  but I have always been a little resistant to treatment.  After all, I feel fine!

 

At least, I felt fine until this new medication was added.  Now I feel pretty rotten.  I’m sleepy.  I’m nauseous.  And I’m mad that I’m sleepy and nauseous.  After all – I have places to go and people to see!  Well – not really with this lockdown but you get my sentiment.

 

My blood pressure readings are now normal.  This makes my family and my family doctor very happy.  I’m still very annoyed at being sleepy and nauseous.  This morning I ranted at God for pretty much the first hour in my office.  Why do I have to be created with hypertension?  Why do I have to live with chronic pain?  Why, God, Why?

 

We are now in week 62 of the pandemic – and the ‘why’s’ of this all still loom really large.  Why are we seeing people contract the virus and die?  Did God create or allow Covid-19?  Does God have control over who gets the virus and who doesn’t?  Why, God, Why?

 

And in the middle of my morning rant at God, I realized that once again I was wrestling with the whole question of Theodicy; or why does a good God allow suffering and evil to happen in our world or in our own lives?  It’s not an easy question but I think it’s pretty much a universal one.  We like answers to our questions.  We like to show that things are caused by something and then we can do something to make it better.  I fall into this fix-it mind-set a whole lot, and then out of it comes the blame game:  I blame my hypertension on my salt intake and then basically eliminated all salt from my diet.  We’ve seen people blame Covid on a lab accident in China, or worse yet – on deliberate viral warfare.  We blame people for contracting Covid by saying they must have not masked, or social distanced or they must’ve gone to a party.

 

Or we blame our own sin for bad things happening to us.

 

Or we blame God.

We seem to need to blame.  Maybe because if we can blame something, or someone, or ourselves or even God for what’s happening then it makes sense.  And if it makes sense, then we can fix or control it.

 

And therein lies the problem.

 

Because, maybe, just maybe there is no blame, and  there is no sense, and there is no control when we experience terrible things.  Maybe it just is.  And all we can do is support each other and lean into God, knowing we are not alone.

 

I read an article recently that suggested that when things are going well, we attribute it to our skill, or our resilience or our capability, but when things are going poorly we look outside of ourselves – and blame others or systems or even God.  If you think about this, then it means that we blame God for Evil and yet congratulate ourselves when things are good.  Interesting, eh.  Because, really – what if there’s no blame, no sense and no control over some suffering?  What if sometimes it just is?

 

When we look at issues of theodicy, it’s pretty common for us church folk to turn to the book of Job, and the passage above comes after a whole lot of dialogue between Job and his friends trying to blame, make sense of, and control Job’s suffering.  This is the point where God, silent up until now, finally has God’s say.  So, what does God say?  God doesn’t give a reason.  God doesn’t lay blame.  God doesn’t hand back control to Job.  God just says –

 

I’m here.  I created you.  I created the world.  This is all of mine.

 

God is here in the middle of me struggling with the side-effects of a new medication.  God is here in the middle of our pain and loss because of Covid.  God is here with us in the middle of all of our pain and loss.

 

And God is also here in the Goodness of my hypertension being controlled.  God is here in the goodness of our viral rates coming down and our world slowly opening up.  God is here in the middle of our joy and freedom.

 

I hope you can experience God’s presence in the fullness of your life.  Because God is.

 

Blessings today and remember you are loved.

~Rev. Lynne

 


3 thoughts on “The Pesky Problem of Theodicy”

  1. I feel stunned by all. I’ve given myself a task to try and find a place to love in all situations. After all, God has created everything to live and to die. It’s all hugely bigger than me; that’s about all I think I know for sure. But this does allow that I can let go of many things that I can’t possibly control or reason. Therein is a measure of peace for me.

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