Q&A: How can I place my faith in a God who continues to let such terrible things happen?
Q: Last week, a version of this question appeared in my Facebook group: How can I place my faith in a God who continues to let such terrible things happen?
To respond to this question, we’re gonna have to expand our idea of what ‘God’ is and bring some of our assumptions around faith into inquiry.
We’ll need to question the assumption that God (or any Divine being) takes sides in our conflicts. We’ll have to question our assumption that God has the same notions of good and evil that we hold.
When we conceive of our ‘God’ as a kingly, masculine presence who watches over us, who protects us and our property, we are naturally included to grant ‘him’ kingship – authority – over us, and when things go wrong, we’re going to take it personally. As if God has abandoned us. We may even blame ‘Him’ for our misfortunes.
Expanding our image of the Divine beyond our limited notions of personality and preference, we begin to understand that God is not a father on a throne but is rather, a non-gendered ordering principle. A cosmic law that governs things like gravity and entropy, that keeps planets spinning and stars twinkling. It’s not that God is too busy doing important things to think about us. It’s that He/She has set up a universe and, more locally, an eco-system, that is thinking about us constantly.
Air that’s just … there, wherever we are. Water rushing through rivers and streams. Apples to eat. Greens to sauté. And a bright sun that rises every morning.
When God is not a person but a presence, a God/Goddess Divinity Who is everywhere, in everything, all at once. A great creator whose made an order that’s responsive and reflective, generous and supportive. Well, that kind of God will be less likely to intervene into situations which, to my mind and heart, would be better worked out among ourselves.
This God does not tell us precisely how to plant our apple trees. The apple trees themselves can do that and by observation, we learn (from the trees) the best apple-growing conditions. This God does not tell us whether to eat our greens with rice or with potatoes. This God supports and helps us create any vision we hold. Apple pie or apple charlotte; greens over grits or stirred into consommé. God does not take sides.
That’s how we wind up in the world that we’re in: some of us holding a vision of love and sacredness, some of us holding a vision of fear and suffering. Whatever our notion of the world, that is the kind of world this Divine will support. As long as we don’t mess with the infrastructure: air, water, apple trees, greens. When we mess with the basics, this God has built a planet that WILL intervene – on its own behalf – to rebalance the system.
So, my answer to your question is this:
Our vision frames the Divine’s response to us.
This makes us a part of the story – the story that we’re living personally and the story that we are watching on TV.
This can be frightening. It can feel as if no one is in charge. It can make us feel as if we are on our own. Yet this is the farthest thing from the truth, which is so wide and deep that, from our small minded perspective, it can be hard to see.
This truth, as stated by all spiritual masters from gurus to avatars – including the actual teachings of Jesus, the Buddha and the gurus of India – is that there is One in charge – only One.
And that One is you. It’s also me. It’s all of us. And by ‘us’ I mean, everyone, babies, old people, gurus, priests and yoga teachers; I mean, everything -cows, turkeys, rabbits and birds; I mean every thing, rocks, stars, apple trees and pinecones; I mean sphinxes and statues and paintings and that weird bowl your brother made in art class. Everything. Oh, and angels. I mean angels. And nature spirits, and electricity and sunlight. All of this. All of us. We’re in this world-balancing together.
When we begin to grasp this truth, our small mind melts away, our concerns about right and wrong soften and, so does our sense of powerlessness. When we see ourselves as a part of a vast and interconnected wholeness, we see our part in helping co-create the world in which we live.
We perceive events in our human news cycle quite differently. We notice our assumptions about how Divine intervention should save us. We expand our sense of response-ability. We begin to understand that, often, our response to sad or terrible things in the news is the rising of the Divine IN US.
Our despair becomes calling. Our fear becomes outrage. Our powerlessness becomes empowerment. How? By reclaiming authority from the ‘king on a throne’ and placing it where it has always been: in our own hands – and our own hearts.
Now, When we are shocked by another terrible story on the news, we know the truth: these things will happen until the human community stops them.
These things will stop when we stop placing our authority in kings, presidents, prime ministers and Gods and respond from our own authority, reclaiming the world that we are responsible to make.
The world of men and women is shaped by the vision we hold of that world. Our inner vision shapes the outer vision – what we see in our lives, on TV – before our eyes. When we can see a balanced world, we will live in one, supported, as always, by the Divine.