‘I am truly saddened by these incidents that have no ending. My question is – why isn’t God answering the cries of His people? Where is He? Why doesn’t He intervene and help those helpless people, especially the women and children?’
The above was part of an email I received last week. It was a reference to the killings going on in the Indonesian Malukus. What had started out as periodic skirmishes between Christian and Muslim communities had degenerated to wholesale ethnic cleansing of Christians with the arrival of Jihad armies from other parts of Indonesia.
Why doesn’t God intervene to rescue His people? I suppose most Christians struggle with this question at some point of their lives. I am not sure we will ever find any answers that are 100% rationally and emotionally satisfying this side of heaven. Strangely enough I found the recent European Cup Final between France and Italy a good parable to help us understand God’s game plan.
For the uninitiated, Italy was leading by one goal with about four minutes to play. All Italian fans and most spectators would have concluded that the Cup was theirs. Then France scored the equalizer. And went on to win the cup in extra time. What can we learn from this?
1. There are times when evil seems to be winning.
The situation in the Malukus is just one such situation. The 21st century has brought mind boggling technological advancement. Yet daily, we are reminded by situations at home and abroad that as a race we have not made much progress in matters of the human spirit. And in situation after situation, the bad guys appear to be winning and the innocent suffer.
2. At times like this we must remember that God does win in the end.
Bible scholars argue over the exact interpretations of puzzling symbols in the book of Revelation. Sometimes such debates detract us from the basic message of the book – God wins in the end! God has given us a glimpse of the end of history. God and good do triumph. Imagine what would have happened if the French fans at the European Cup final had somehow known the final score. I doubt they would have been that anxious even though Italy led till close to the end.
3. Therefore we are not shaken even when evil appears to have the upper hand.
Seeing the images of innocent people suffering and dying, we cannot help but wonder what God is up to. It seems He has a lot to answer for even though He does triumph in the end. (I suspect God thinks humanity has a lot to answer for and would ask us in return who among us is really innocent since Adam and Eve.) Nevertheless, the reality of God’s ultimate triumph means we should not be unduly shaken when evil seems to have the upper hand. We continue to trust in God and His purposes and timing. Good Friday and Easter becomes our basic paradigm. Evil appears to win for a while but then comes the Resurrection.
4. In the meantime we continue to work for good.
Because God and good does win in the end, nothing we do for Him will ever be wasted. Because we know the score at the final whistle, we continue to play the game. With evil seemingly so strong at times, I fear many of us will lapse into apathy and cynicism. What is the point of working for God and His Kingdom? It feels like we are building sand castles quickly swept away by the tides of evil. I fear many of us have too short a view of history. We need to have God’s perspective. We need to see the end of history. We need to be in it for the distance.
For those among us who are not football fans, I recommend Psalm 73. There the Psalmist also wonders: