Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Entertaining Doubts

“Cannot you not hear? Cannot you not see? And if with words You could change the way things are arranged Surely you'd be speaking, speaking no change

The music was blaring through the apartment as I made my way around it cleaning up from last weekend’s events. It was a song on a CD that I had listened to countless times, but for whatever reason it felt like it was the first time I was really hearing it.

“Oh and I pray, my prayer's not heard. Could it be your death, death to mortal words? Oh, and see her pain, and drain and drain. Could you be deaf, and blind my friend?”

In spite of having always known that Dave Matthews Band was secular, it had always moved me to hear these objections to faith put so plainly. Despite being a Christian long before I was introduced to DMB, these were notions I had also struggled with. And listening to the songs reminded me of how difficult it often is to understand a God we cannot see and not always understand. For whatever reason, the music deepened my faith because it clarified for me how necessary blind faith often is.

The song in particular used an example of a suffering child that the singer believes God could save if He wanted to. Because nothing is done to spare the child or ease it’s pain, the singer concludes that there is no God and if there is, He is not a loving God.

“Oh, so I'm praying all at night. And I wake up praying the whole daylight. I pray to you, and hear my request. I ask of you to save this baby Oh, look at the girl. Awful inside, is cancer-eaten, is life-deprived. And if so by who? Could it be you?
I see no need for a baby's wisdom for you.”


This is the classic disconnect between the unbeliever and faith. It is two-pronged. It’s the argument that on one hand, if we are to believe that there is a God we must accept that He is indifferent at best and on the other that if there were an all-powerful God who could correct the situation, He would, so there isn’t one. Listening to the lyrics of DMBs songs, these notions are clearly illustrated.

“If at all God’s gaze upon us falls it’s with a mischievous grin, look at him


The problem of pain, as C.S. Lewis wisely noted is one that plagues the believer and nonbeliever both. Even for those who love and accept God, it’s sometimes impossible to come up with an explanation when we witness needless suffering or unspeakable tragedy that seems to serve no purpose. It is at times difficult to trust that God is working when we cannot see it and accept that in order to allow free will, the problem of pain must exist. Yet in order for us to make choices, we must be given a range of possibility, we must be allowed to make bad choices that hurt others or ourselves as well as good choices that help others, otherwise we’d be no better than puppets.

Yet, rather than blame the people who sin, we blame the God who allows us the choice. We reason: if He could fix it, He would. But if He did, it would rob us of what makes us human: the ability to decide, to believe or not to believe, to sin or not to sin, to help or to hurt, to do good or evil. It is entirely our decision whether or not we trust Him and put our hope in the notion that all things will work together for good, even when we cannot imagine how.

But the point of this entry wasn’t to try and explain it away or make excuse. It wasn’t to try and re-iterate the finer points in C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece or dabble in philosophical reasoning of my own. It wasn’t the concept of God’s indifference that struck me when I listened to the song that prompted me to write this blog. It was the notion that I hadn’t considered: That if we suffer when we witness pain and tragedy, how much more does God suffer BECAUSE He could change it?

At any moment, God could rearrange any situation (as the singer in the song requests). But it would contradict who He is and who He made us to be if He were to pull the strings, interrupt our actions or prevent consequences. Our actions and decisions would be meaningless. We would be playthings instead of people. Instead, God must sit by and watch us destroy ourselves and each other knowing that He had the power to prevent it but could not. It would be the end of the world as we know it. Instead, God must watch the creations that He loved enough to give such limitless possibilities to go astray. I can imagine that if it hurts us to hear about, it hurts Him a great deal more.

So why not scrap the whole thing? Why not stop the world as soon as a tragedy occurs?

I’d like to think it’s out of love. That in spite of our misdeeds, God finds a way to use pain to reach us, to teach us, to perfect and improve us, and that He works to comfort those who suffer through no fault of their own. And that, I guess is where faith comes in. Though every now and then I’ll hear the words to some familiar song and entertain my doubts for just a moment before realizing how fortunate I am to know the truth.

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Surely, He is watching.

31 comments:

M said...

C.S. Lewis stated in "A Grief Observed" " Maybe it is our own re-iterated cries that drown out the voice we are seeking to hear." I think alot of times we are too impatient to LISTEN for God's voice and direction in our lives. We are too busy screaming WHY? HOW? WHEN? And we miss the wisdom we seek. Remember.. God does not give patience, He teaches it through trials. My advice... be a good student.

Damian said...

Analyzing suffering and what is the reason for it is one of the biggest reasons why people do not believe in God, but as you said - we all have choices. I here people asking what is God doing about the suffering in the world but they themselves don't see the need to get up and assist in stopping atleast one other persons suffering. As God said we are our brothers keepers. Good thought you brought up - I hope it will portray a better understanding of God or prompt others to search to know more about Him.

Anonymous said...

Oh Nan...this was a good one. Especially after my day at work last evening. The pain I felt after all was said and done was just overwhelming. If you are not sure what I am talking about, it was all over the news yesterday and today...lets just say we worked really hard and it proved to be very emotional and eye opening experience for many of us. I am still trying to figure out my emotions about it right now. But it was very comforting to read what you wrote, it puts a lot of things in perspective.

Nunzia said...

that was better than i ever could have said it. :)

green said...

As I've often said, God's plans are not our own and He sees the big picture while we only see a small piece of it. I agree wholeheartedly that God could cure all if He wanted to yet doesn't, because if He did, no benefit would come to us through it.

It amazed me, on my trip to Dallas in March while flying over the clouds, how tiny and insignificant humans are in relation to the size of the universe. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how much God provides for us without our even realizing it. And how important we are to him - that He would make the ultimate sacrifice for us. Amazing...

Pia said...

"It is entirely our decision whether or not we trust Him and put our hope in the notion that all things will work together for good, even when we cannot imagine how." ~~ exactly what i was told yesterday. this is a confirmation. thanks for sharing, nan.

Christiaan said...

Nunzia,
Just strolling (google-ing) by as I was looking for info on Lewis. I read your piece and I wanted to compliment you on this Post. Well-formulated and interesting. thoughts on pain. I read some of the works of Lewis and his views on pain and suffering can teach us a lot.
I wish you to have lots more entertaining doubts and I'm going to read some more of your posts. Keep it up!

Gordon Cloud said...

This was a very well-written post. I especially was intrigued by the thought of God suffering because He could alleviate pain and didn't. I am truly thankful for His love.

martie said...

As "green" said, we don't see the whole picture. To me, it's like God is doing a tapestry and all I see is the back side with the strings and knots. He is looking at the other side.

~Deb said...

It's definitely has everything to do with faith and nothing to do with God's anger on us. (ie: If a child has cancer or a loved one passes away) God doesn't do things to hurt us---these things happen accordingly and was meant to be. It's just that non-believers will never understand the hidden meaning behind life itself. Although there are a lot of different beliefs and opinions--it still boils down to faith.

Great post!

Michael Pendleton said...

"Yet, rather than blame the people who sin, we blame the God who allows us the choice."

Been there, Done that!

Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for the encouragment. Today came and it is sunny and off to work I went.

I hope you will visit again since I generaly have bible study going on, maybe you read some of the Ecclesiastes study.

micheljones0696899914 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TR said...

Nice~
You really are a brilliant writer and a VERY intellegent person. Its more than obvious as to what your capabilities are.

Godwyn Lim said...

Sister:-)

All I believe is that the Lord we serve is a good God. All the battles [Be it mental, emotional, physical or spiritual] belonged to Christ Jesus.

Too good to be true? All the victories are for us to claim as He is our God, else you don't need one! When we prayed & believe, things will come to past, just at times we have to wait upon the Lord...

Jesus knows the best for our life as our names are written on the palm of God, His hands is bigger than any...

Awesome Post:

God Bless, enjoying all the blessing, Daily, our Daily Bread...

forgiven said...

Cool Nan,

Well done

Doug

Godwyn Lim said...

Sister,

The God we serve is a good God! All battles belong to Jesus be it mental, physical, emotional or spiritual...

All the victories are claimed by us, as Jesus is our God of most High. It is just that there are time we have to wait upon our Lord, He knows the best for us, rather to base our ways of life using human effort...I can, I...me...myself...

Awesome Post:

Have a great weekend ahead!

Bushwack said...

Great read nan.

Ryan S. said...

Our suffering and affliction can bring us closer to Him. Romans 8:28!

¤•*˚*` i§ãßê||ë '*˚*•¤ said...

hello nan.

i'm audrey's daughter.
surprise!!!!!

Kristi said...

Nan, I really appreciated the American flag you posted at the end of this entry. That really drove a point home with me.

thebeloved said...

Beautiful and powerful posting. Keep reaching out to people through your writing!

Tim Rice said...

A well-written post. And I like the honesty with which you write it. It makes your post alive and truly meaningful. That God cries for us and that he doesn't violate our freedom were communicated beautifully.

cybeRanger said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for your comment on my blog.

devineallthetime said...

Suffering is a key thread, woven into the fabric of the universe. The Garden of Eden is vacant. The blood of the Son of God is on every human hand, and thus we all have our share of suffering

sage said...

A well thought out post and examination of the Dave Matthew's song. However, I wonder, is there truly such a thing as "secular?"

Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on my post which was mush less serious than yours.

Gayle said...

Your post was brilliant, as were the comments. I especially liked Martie's comment about only seeing the backside of the Tapestry while God sees the entire thing." We can never know why things happen the way they happen, or for what reason. One thing I do know, without pain there can never be any joy. Without some suffering their can never be personal growth. If all were simply fantastic throughout all of our lives, we would never appreciate the good because there would be no way to compare it to anything else. And I also know God knows this, after all, He created all of us and everything else. We are but little children saying "No. I don't want to." Or "No, Mommy, I don't want to eat that!" Mommy knows what's good for us, why would anyone distrust our Lord."

You obviously put a lot of thought and heart into this post. It's one of the best I've ever seen on this subject. Blessings girl... you are a true jewel!

Nunzia said...

I guess, by secular, I usually mean media that doesn't acknowledge God or is very worldly.

These were some really great comments and insights guys. Thank you so much for sharing them!

Gayle said...

Your post was brilliant, as were the comments. I especially liked Martie's comment about only seeing the backside of the Tapestry while God sees the entire thing." We can never know why things happen the way they happen, or for what reason. One thing I do know, without pain there can never be any joy. Without some suffering their can never be personal growth. If all were simply fantastic throughout all of our lives, we would never appreciate the good because there would be no way to compare it to anything else. And I also know God knows this, after all, He created all of us and everything else. We are but little children saying "No. I don't want to." Or "No, Mommy, I don't want to eat that!" Mommy knows what's good for us, why would anyone distrust our Lord."

You obviously put a lot of thought and heart into this post. It's one of the best I've ever seen on this subject. Blessings girl... you are a true jewel!

audrey` said...

Great post, Nan.
Thanks for sharing :)

Ryan S. said...

It's inspiring, but the light effect is nigh on impossible. Can anyone see that Adobe® Photoshop® is at work here?

eucharisto said...

Wow, that's really great. One of the best essays I've seen on why we have to suffer. In a way, it's very encouraging, when we learn to focus our disdain not on God, but on the sin that we struggle with day to day. Great post!