Since God is love, and God is always with us, there is always hope.
Long before I knew that was a word or what it meant, it was, and remains for me, the hardest issue to resolve in my faith.
Theodicy wrestles with the inconsistencies in our logic pattern when it comes to God.
If we say God is good (and we do);
And if we say God is all-powerful (and we do);
And if we observe that evil exists, not in the abstract (mind you), but in the flesh and blood of child abuse and pandemic (and we do);
Then we have a problem.
The only conclusions we can draw are that God tolerates evil on the good side of this; or God wants or needs evil to exist at the not so very good side of this. So, is God not so omnipotent or not so good?
Like many I wrestle with this. I don’t like it. I try to convince myself there is an answer for this. Personally, I am comfortable if not denying then at least doubting that whole All-powerful claim. But being comfortable with that doubt is not nearly the same thing as being comfortable with what that means. All that does is drag me into the whole battle between good and evil thing, leaving open the possibility that evil could have the upper hand.
I don’t believe that it does. In the end, the most important thing I know about God is the simple truth that God is love.
Love is good.
Love is powerful.
Love is the only antidote I know to fear and evil. As Rob Bell is fond of saying, quite simply, love wins.
Some wins are not easy to come by, though - like ending hunger and poverty, racism and bigotry, mass incarceration and prisoner abuse, homophobia and sexism. We struggle every day to advance the cause of love and to overcome the powers of evil. Some days are good. Many are not.
Emily Dickinson, my favorite poet, once wrote in my favorite poem that her ‘little toil of love, I deem, is large enough for me.’ No single act of love will overcome all evil. But every little act of love offered advances the cause, diminishes evil’s impact, and awakens within the heart of another the desire to embrace a life lived for love.
We are living through one of those times that raises questions about God’s capacity to overcome the evil we endure. A global pandemic has altered our lives in every conceivable way, sent us into voluntary quarantine, and ravaged bodies racked with pain and shortness of breath. Many have died and many more will before we see its end. We feel powerless to stop it, and long for a God whose powerful hand just wipes out the disease.
We know that won’t happen.
We could cower.
We could quit.
Or we could conspire.
What is it that drives a nurse, a doctor, an orderly, a front-line health professional to risk their own lives to save others? What is it that inspires people to sew and send masks all over the world? What is it that has parents choosing to get up every day and do their work while educating their children; or their children to wile away weary hours without playground or playmate?
There is within us a capacity to endure evil’s machinations. Almost by instinct we choose love over anger, compassion over rancor, endurance over despair. It is what one would expect to find in us who are created in the image and likeness of the one we know of simply as love.
On this journey of ours, we will know evil. We will see the ravages it can inflict. Let us all, then, choose love as the only remedy to it we know on this, our journey Into the Mystic.