If God is good, then why does evil exist?
If God is powerful, then why doesn’t God do something?
So maybe God is not so good.
OR maybe God is not so powerful.
Theodicy is the name theologians use for this conundrum.
But most of the rest of us just ask: WHY?!?!
I wonder how many people have turned away from faith because of these unanswerable questions. I say “unanswerable” because we won’t find The Definitive Answer this side of heaven but still each of us answers the questions some way or another. Here is how the Psalmist grapples with the question.
Naming the Reality that Can Be Seen
In arrogance, the wicked persecute the poor.
Those greedy for gain renounce the Lord.
Their ways prosper at all times and they think in their heart, “We shall not be moved.”
They lurk that they may seize the poor; they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.
They think in their heart, “God has forgotten; God has hidden his face, he will never see it.” I could easily use these same words to describe my own world in 2019. This is what America looks like to me, how the world turns on its tilted axis. The world is not “straight” and “true” according to my gut assessment of how things “ought” to be.
Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
And so the Psalmist – and I on so many difficult days – challenge God. “Where are you? Why won’t you act, intercede, interrupt this madness? Why don’t you DO SOMETHING!”
Some Christians believe it is sinful to question God. They would say such arguing shows a lack of faith. But I say – along with the Psalmist – that challenging God shows an immense faithfulness. We call upon God to keep promises, to bring light and order into the darkness and chaos. We want God to be God.
This profound faithfulness of asking, seeking, knocking is grounded in our faith that God IS indeed God. That God IS at work in the world. That God IS bringing justice and righteousness and shalom into being. Even if we can’t see it. Even if generations of believers won’t see it fulfilled or completed.
We hold on to hope, confidence, faith that God knows, that God sees, that God keeps promises.
Naming the Reality that Cannot Be Seen
But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan…
O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed…
Here is the Psalmist’s answer to our painful theodicy. God IS good. God IS powerful. God IS just. God IS at work in the world.
Maybe instead of asking: “why doesn’t God do something,” a better question would be: “why don’t WE do something?”
So let us stay busy participating in the divine work of goodness and justice. Wherever we are, with whatever power we are given, in whichever challenges we encounter.