When I was reading the Jewish blessing after my meal today I read,
“Blessed are you, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who nourished the entire world, in His goodness – with grace, with kindness and with mercy. He gives nourishment to all flesh, for His kindness is eternal. And through His great goodness we have never lacked, and may we never lack, nourishment, for all eternity. For the sake of His Great Name, because He is God Who nourished and sustains all, and benefits all, and He prepares food for all of His creature which He has created. As it is said: ‘You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.’ Blessed are You Hashem Who nourishes all.”
Suddenly a picture flashed through my mind of starving and emaciated men and women lined up in the barracks in Auschwitz, or the millions of bodies piled high after the Holocaust. I put the book down and I stopped thinking lest my brain explode with confusion. There was a mass exodus of religious Jews who walked away from their faith after the holocaust and I’m not sure I blame them. Generations of Jews daily claiming the goodness of their God, begging for freedom from their captivity, the return of Jerusalem, and trusting in His power to nourish and care for His people; then six million Jews lost their loved ones, their dignity, their humanity, and their lives…because they were Jews, because they followed the very God who asked them to trust Him.
I was talking to my Dad about the common phrase “God will provide” and he mentioned the holocaust to me as well. In the Problem of Pain C.S. Lewis says, “If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both. This is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.”
So, why do we claim God’s provision when so often it doesn’t come through? God will feed the sparrow…sparrows die all time, and based on the United Nations statistics 21,000 humans die of starvation every day. So what is it in us that could possibly allow us to have comfort in God’s provision when our fellow human beings are dying from a problem that the Western world has virtually eradicated, based on the drive in human nature to survive. The very anxiety God asks us not to have is what has made us full so we can survive.
Many people are still able to find great comfort in God having this grand plan that we are supposed to follow and if we do we will find good. They ask for his opinion on decisions like who one should marry, what career to pursue, what hire should be made in hopes that God will answer with the right and best answer. I had a friend tell me the other day they were debating making a hire at their church but that they found comfort in knowing God would always bring the perfect person to His church. I admire my friend’s faith, I do not share in this comfort he has found. There are thousands of people who have been hired in churches after a prayerful search and have deceived hundreds, destroyed relationships, left their faith, molested children and worse. Yet still we are encouraged to find peace that His plan is somehow perfect, we just don’t have the full picture yet.
People often tell my in my struggle with infertility that God knows, that He opens and closes wombs and that He knew me and my children before He formed the world so I should find great comfort in that. These people love me deeply and find great peace in God knowing what will happen, but what they really seem to be saying to me is it will work out the way I want it to. That God has some great plan I’m a part of and I should find peace in His timing. What if His plan for me is to be barren? What if there is no plan at all? It must terrible for women who are permanently barren to accept this belief of God as comfort, just a little reminder that He knows, He won’t fix it, and in fact he potentially made them that way on purpose. Can there be comfort in His knowing if it means nothing for change? Is there comfort in His supposed plan if it could be leading us to the very place all our anxiety is warning us to avoid? What if we just say these things to each other because we can’t just sit with someone and cry over their sadness, their pain and its potential permanence makes us uncomfortable so we give them a God blanket to cover up the gaping wounds?
But let’s say this pain caused by life and God’s will was all for the sake of salvation, which is the supreme goal for anyone no matter the cost and that is the full picture we can never see, it is the final play in his game plan, all the pain and confusion leading up to that, eternal life. What about those who don’t find him? What about the devout Muslim who believes whole-heartedly in God, serves Him faithfully, but was born into the wrong religion and made the wrong choice? Is God’s will in that? What about the Jew who served the God of our forefathers faithfully and was confused by unclear prophecies that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah and the new only way. It seems His goodness only works out for some of us.
Thus the cycle of my mind, why trust in a God to do the things we believe He’ll do when so many times it doesn’t work out. Millions of praying believing Jews died in spite of their belief, trusting children starve while we claim prayers that God provides, people break churches even though they were hired under prayerful leadership, praying women are barren, despite great pain Muslims don’t find the one true God. Maybe He knows, maybe He has a plan, maybe prayer changes things, or as Rabbi Yehoshua said to me, “the best we can do is not understand.”
So then what?
We pray that the pearly gates are wide and we play a part, we work towards feeding the hungry worldwide, we sit in the pain with the barren women and sob over her emptiness, we pay attention to the marginalized and those at risk of genocide and civil unrest, we do our best to help make the world the place God intended it to be and we pray in desperation and in faith, that He would intervene. And even as God's face remains unclear, we keep going.