For Christ also suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
Always in sorrow God's love and justice are questioned. How could a good God be so cruel and so uncaring of those made in His image? Indeed, if He knew Adam and Eve would sin, why did He create them at all? I think in deep sorrow this becomes a crucial and valid question.
Perhaps we can take some comfort in Isaiah 57:1-2: "The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away while no one considers that the righteous man is taken away from evil." No one considers! How true. Jesus disciples were so bewildered when their lovely Companion and Friend died on the Cross. Dear God, they must have cried to heaven, Love nailed to a Cross? This Man they lived with, walked with and worked with for over three years was subjected to the cruelest of deaths. How could they know that out of this seeming failure would arise the Son of Man and Son of God in eternal glory; that humankind would be given God's beauty for Jesus ashes of suffering; that mankind would be anointed with the oil of joy, God's Holy Spirit; that the grieving world would be dressed with the garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness through this ultimate act of man's inhumanity to Man? How can we know that out of our dear and dead children's ashes will arise a good and goodness? Because our Father is just and His promises are true!
In Psalm 98:14 we are told not only of justice being the foundation of God's throne, but of the symbolism of the twin angels of mercy and truth (one version reads loving-kindness and faithfulness). Psalm 85:10 tells us: "Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed." What a lovely vision for questioning hearts! Psalm 25:10 assures us: "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth" and Psalm 26:3 reassures us: "For Your loving-kindness is before my eyes."
Wherever and whenever God goes, His justice, love and faithfulness accompany Him. It is reported that when Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theater, James Garfield shouted above the panic-stricken crowd, "Fellow Citizens, `Justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne.'" Here is the moral basis for God's Kingship. How then can we blame God for evil: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation" (Matthew 12:25). Remember, Friend, this is Jesus speaking! I believe with all my broken heart that one of Satan's most successful ploys is convincing us that God is responsible for earth's evils and sufferings. Satan must literally dance for joy when a person actually believes that the malignities and perversities of this life are "acts of God"! We are unjust who accuse God of being unjust. It is Satan who is the accuser of the brethren and who delights in our blaming God when calamity strikes. "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33) and grief is not peace but a terrible spiritual anarchy.
I realize that in desolation our hearts are hardly open to the logic and logistics of this aberrant world in which we live and we seem to battle forces we feel too much beyond our control. When we want--indeed, need--to question why we have been thrown into the "bottom of the monstrous world," as Milton so aptly termed it, we might consider that we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19), and neither are our beloved dead. We were bought with the fearsome price of the agony and death of the Man of Sorrows Himself. If we believe in Jesus and the Atonement then we know He literally bought us and our children, and "if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8). God has equitable jurisdiction as Creator and Redeemer. "Behold, all souls are Mine," God tells us in Ezekiel 18:4. This implies authority and ownership.
Calvin, whose puritanical pronouncements hardly belie a soft theology, recognized that God possessed "a paternal affection towards the whole human race which He created and formed." We can thank God, even with breaking hearts, that He wills all to be saved. Indeed, I believe that one of the greatest promises in His Word is in John 12:32: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." This surely is His highest and noblest will, considering how humankind has ignored, denied and despised the One to whom they owe life itself.
It is possible only with God as our Guide to believe that sorrow does work toward a good, and whatever good does sift its way to the top of our muddy waters comes from God's grace only. Someone has wisely observed that there is a faith which instead of moving mountains prevents mountains of evil from moving. Jeremy Taylor speaks great comfort to our hearts: "God, who in mercy and wisdom governs the world, would never have suffered so many sadnesses, and have sent them especially to the most virtuous and the wisest [people], but that he intends they should be the seminary of thought, the nursery of virtue, the exercise of wisdom, the trial of patience, the venturing for a crown, and the gate of glory."
In our quest for justice we always ask why, for we will always lose loved ones and our cherished plans will sometimes fail. Emily Dickinson pens it well:
Love's stricken "why"
Is all that love can speak --
Built of but just a syllable
The hugest hearts that break.
We ask why does the sun shine on the evil and the good, and the rain fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)? Surely, if we have any sensibilities at all, so often it seems that justice and mercy are indeed on the scaffold and wrong on the throne of undeserved glory. In fact, wickedness shouts to be noticed and honored through every age. We need only note the idols and heroes the world worships.
The most agonized "why" ever on this grievous earth was the cry of dereliction from the Cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). There on that instrument of death Jesus moaned the why of all who feel God-forsaken and just forsaken; who see the darkness homing in relentlessly and inescapably. Why, my God? Why my son? Why Your Son? Why anyone's beloved child? Why death at all? But questions become useless and, worse, a stone in the way of the Rock of Ages. Our Father asks us to remove the stone from the tomb of our sorrow and believe that He has the answers. We may not know the answers here on earth, but He does have them!
Patricia Erwin Nordman