As a pastor with a pastor’s heart, Adam Hamilton has wrestled with the Why? questions with his congregation and with hundreds of individuals over the last twenty years. His responses to these questions are not simplistic answers, but a serious attempt to make sense of God in the face of tragedy.
About Why?: Making Sense of God’s Will (April 2011):
When the ground shakes, and a poor nation’s economy is destroyed; when the waters rise, washing away a community’s hopes and dreams; when a child suffers neglect and abuse; when violence tears apart nations; wh ere is God? If God is all powerful, and if each one of us is a beloved child of God, then how can God allow tragedy and suffering to infest his creation?
When we lift our prayers to God, and no answer seems to come; when we earnestly seek to know the will of God for our lives, yet can't seem to discern it; when God seems far away; where is God? If God counts the hairs on our head, and knows every sparrow that falls, why is finding and understanding God's will so difficult at times?
In Why? Making Sense of God's Will best-selling author Adam Hamilton brings fresh insight to the age-old question of how to understand the will of God. Rejecting simplistic answers and unexamined assumptions, Hamilton addresses how we can comprehend God’s plan for the world and ourselves.
Throughout most of human history people have seen [earthquakes] as acts of God. How else could pre-scientific people explain such widespread destruction? But today we understand that earthquakes are the result of the movement of the earth’s plates, a process designed to keep the core of our planet from super heating. It is an amazing feat of engineering and physics. Without it the earth could not support life. Likewise the monsoons that bring terrible flooding are part of the earth’s system for cooling our atmosphere. These two processes allow our planet to support life. When human beings get caught in these giant forces of nature, there is death and devastation, but the forces themselves are essential to life on our planet.
We know today that these forces of nature actually play a key role in sustaining life. We also have a basic understanding of when and why they occur. We are no longer bound to believe that God sends earthquakes or floods. Likewise we understand why God does not intervene and stop these things from occurring; to do so would be to ensure the destruction of our planet. God’s provision for human beings who face these natural disasters is to send others to provide care. As human beings we are meant to hear the call of God to provide food and clothing and shelter for those in need. We wrap our arms around those who survive and help them put the pieces of their lives back together again. (p. 16)
When God wants to bring hope and help to others, God sends people. To the degree that there is suffering in our world, it is because God’s people have yet to hear or answer God’s call to go and to be God’s hands and voice to help children in need. Rather than being disappointed with God for the natural disasters and widespread poverty that affects so many in our word, I see them as a call to action. The question is, will God’s people heed the call? (pp.17-18)
Jesus teaches that the essence of love and authentic discipleship is to help those who are in need. By doing this we become the hands and voice of God for others and in this way God answers prayer and works in our world. (P. 85)
How does God answer prayer? When God wants something done, God typically sends people. This has led me to conclude that God’s customary way of working in our lives is through what appear to be ordinary. Rather than suspending the laws of nature that God created and bypassing the human beings that God created to do God’s work, God typically works through natural laws and through people. In the Bible this is how God most often worked, and it is how God typically works today. I believe that miracles can happen. On rare occasions God miraculously and directly intervenes in the world, but most of the time God works through us, calling and nudging us into action, working in our hearts to be the instruments God uses to answer the prayers of others. (p. 44)
Points (on earthquake and tsunami in Japan):
When natural disasters like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan occur, people want to know why God would allow such tragedy.
Some Christians answer that God brings natural disaster as a punishment for human wrongdoing.
Most Christians, however, cannot accept this understanding of God.
Disasters like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan usually come from natural processes necessary to sustain life on this planet.
Yet they can also cause human suffering.
When they do, it’s natural to ask "Where was God?" But the better question is "Where does God want me? What is God calling me to do to help alleviate the suffering?"
If you want to know where God is in the midst of the suffering in Japan, look to the rescue workers, doctors, nurses, and all the others who have thrown themselves into the effort to help.
Adam Hamilton Biography:
Adam Hamilton is pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, a congregation of 16,000 members. The church was listed as the most influential mainline church in America in a 2005 survey of American pastors. Hamilton has been featured and interviewed on CNN’s The Lou Dobbs Show and in such publications as Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, and Church Executive. He was recipient of the 2010 Perkins Distinguished Alumnus Award. Other books by Hamilton include: 24 Hours that Changed the World (Dec. 2009), Enough (Feb. 2009), Seeing Gray (April 2008), When Christians Get it Wrong (Aug. 2010) and six others. For more on Hamilton, visit : www.AdamHamilton.AbingdonPress.com.