Unanswered prayer and other difficulties: Nov 17th 2020
At house group last night, the concept of Theodicy emerged whilst discussing unanswered prayer. I’m no Theologian but Theodicy is the tension between two things we believe to be true about God. God is all powerful, perfect, and Good. He also loves us. Why then do bad things happen to His people. On a larger scale, how do we validate our understanding of a loving all-powerful God when He permits the manifestation of evil?
The word comes from the Greek, “Theos” which of course means God and “dike” which is justice. Is there justice and what part do we play? “The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” (Psalm 103: 6 -but the whole of Psalm 103 reads like the New Testament to me, because it’s the same God!)
This topic has meant a great deal to me during my illness. My posts start with “Reasons to live” because to be quite honest there were times when I thought it would have been better if I had died and not survived my accident. This seems so ungrateful to God and the people who had been praying for me.
God does answer prayer! But… I was confident that I’d be safer and better in God’s hands than in the difficult world I found myself living in. Of course, there is a tension between wanting to be away from my problems and recognising that God has given me life and I should therefore use it with Gratitude. The latter is more easily understood by most.
House group mentioned the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel 3. In it, those three brave people chose to accept the death penalty after refusing to worship a man-made statue.
Their trust in our actual and very real God was magnificent and brave. They knew he could rescue them because he is all powerful but faithfully went forward knowing; “even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:18)
I may have been confident that God would be with me in death had I died, but I was not brave. I was in my position because of an illness. Living was tough for me. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were quite different. They could have been unfaithful, and the king would have released them. Daniel 3:15. In the event God released them spectacularly and the almightiness of God verses the relative weakness of humanity (including a king) became obvious even to that king. Daniel 3: 28-29
It seems to me that rather than trying to understand the tensions in issues of Theodicy such as unanswered prayer, we’d be better recognising that our wisdom is inadequate in trying to understand the thinking (for want of a better word) of God.
With limited human capabilities what makes us believe we could understand God, his motivations and understanding of the context, even if some people think they’ve got God sussed?
On a personal level, some terrible things did happen to me and anybody who’d have told me at that time that God was with me, would (at best) have been politely ignored. However, some of these events now seem like foundation stones for much better things than I could have hoped for at the time.
Unlike God, I did not know my worldly future and how a specific happening might put me in a better place. That’s true before I even start thinking about eternity and heaven.
I have said I’m no Theologian but despite the Greek, Theodicy for me could be understood as, “the odd you see”.
There is tension between our focus on seeing the odd, and our need to focus on seeing our God.