People have asked me from time to time, both before and after cancer, “How can you believe in a God who allows (fill in the blank with whatever tragedy you want)? How can you worship a God who would allow that to happen?”
First, I need to get one thing straight. I don’t believe in or worship a God. I believe in and worship God. I’m not choosing one off a menu. I believe in and worship the one true God. The fact of his reality and the truth of his Word have been shown to me so many times, that although I have to believe by faith, it is not a blind faith. I have many good reasons for it.
I don’t worship God because he meets my criteria for a God who is pleasing enough for me to worship. He doesn’t have to live up to a list of my expectations and demands, prayers that must be answered a certain way and natural disasters averted. (How would we know, anyway? And how many of those have there been?) I worship God because he is the one and only eternal God, giver of all life, controller of all things. He deserves worship for who he is, not for what he does or doesn’t do. He also deserves praise for his unlimited acts of kindness and love to us, but that is another subject. Or book.
Every breath I take, I take because God allows and wills it. The earth continues in its perfect orbit because God keeps it there. The rain that falls, the sun that shines, the growth of new things so that we can eat – these God has ordained. I know science has discovered how new life grows. But they haven’t discovered why, and they never will. What makes new plant grow from a seed in the earth? How does an entire flower, or cornstalk, or pine tree lie bundled in there waiting to unfurl at the right moment, grow in the right way? Life is God’s masterpiece and I worship him as the author and creator of it.
I worship him because he is holy. We say that so often and so easily – it’s in our songs, our liturgies, our prayers. But to know and understand the holiness of God, that his nature is purely good, makes it very easy to trust him, because I know that even if the situation seems difficult or painful, God will do nothing that is not in my best interest. Knowing his holiness also makes it much harder to willingly and knowingly choose to do wrong because I know that the moment I do, I have put distance in our relationship, which will be there until I choose to repair it. Thank God for his love and willingness to forgive.
I worship God because he is love. Not loving, love. His nature is love. He is the essence of love. All love you or I have ever felt is a hint, a suggestion, a beckoning of what is to come. The deep comfort and safety a child feels when close to his mother is a shadow of the peace possible when close to Jesus. The aching and longing of a mother separated from her child is a whisper of the love and desire for intimacy that God feels for us.
I worship God because he deserves it. When it all comes down to it, we can do absolutely nothing that is apart from him. Carl Sagan said that if you want to bake an apple pie from scratch, you first must create the universe. He is the center of all things, and in him all things hold together.
I think that to ask a question like “How can you worship a God who… well, anything” is naive at best and dangerous at worst. We are the creation. Our creator, who loves us, deserves and requests worship. We have no more right or standing to try to hold him to our standards and examine his motives, than do small children who object to their parents’ rules and decisions. A two-year-old cannot understand at all why she has to stop eating candy when it tastes so good, or go to bed if she doesn’t want to. But her mother understands much more and sees a much bigger picture. Even so, God sees from the perspective of eternity, and understands things we have no knowledge of. It is pure arrogance to presume that we have the right to examine him and decide whether or not he has lived up to our ideals.
Thank you, Father, for the life I live, the air I breathe, the ground I walk, the people I love, and for you being you.