lightening

Philip Yancey writes in his book on prayer, “A hundred times a second lightning strikes somewhere on earth, and I for one do not believe God personally programs each course.” Why does Yancey say this? Why would it bother him if God was planning the path of every lightning bolt? Is he concerned about God being a micromanager? Is he concerned about God be accused of destroying or killing with lightning? Does he feel randomness to be more comforting than a God who destroys? Or does he feel God does not care about such details? Does he feel God is limited and not able to direct every lightning bolt? Or is He able, but simply unconcerned about lightning or unwilling to direct its paths? Would Yancey say God at least knows where every lightning bolt will go prior to it happening or would he think God is surprised?
What would Yancey say to a widow whose husband was killed by lightning? “Don’t worry God was as shocked as he was.” Is it more comforting to believe in a God who is either apathetic or powerless to save us? Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed recently in tsunamis and earthquakes, is “Sorry bad stuff happens, Jesus is sad too” really the best answer Christianity has to give? Or is it more comforting not to mention biblical to believe in an unsearchable, omnipotent, sovereign yet radiantly good God who does direct every lightning bolt, whose hand is in every calamity, who says to the waves, “this far you may come, but no further?” Is it not more hope-giving to believe that, though we may not know the reason for the severe pain we experience or the shocking devastation we see in the world – someone does – the Sovereign Lord of the universe? He is the one who declares the end from the beginning, the one whose hands call forth lightning bolts from the sky and waters from the great deep, as well as providing for the lowly sparrow. Is it not more comforting to trust the unrelenting goodness of a sovereign God who ordains things we don’t understand than to believe that life’s pain is mere randomness caused by living in a fallen world?
Faith is at the heart of our answer. Do we really trust the goodness of God? Can we trust a God who allows a man to be taken from his wife by cancer, who ordains destruction and death of millions of people, who ordains even sin to be used for his purposes? Can we trust that kind of wild, unknowable, non-humanlike God? What about the really hard things like rape, child abuse, genocide, the holocaust – Is God sovereign over those? Could He have stopped them? If we answer “Yes,” our next question is likely ”why didn’t he?” There are only four answers I can see that a Christian might answer – 1) He didn’t know about the problem 2) He didn’t care about the problem 3) He was unable to prevent it from happening or 4) He has ordained the evil to be used for his secret purposes which will ultimately be revealed as for His glory and our good.
Our humanness prevents us from seeing the good of God’s designs for evil most of the time. But we see it clearly in the death of Christ on the cross. What could be more evil than the violent, ugly, torture-filled death of the Lamb of God? Yet all Christians accept it as the plan of God. God ordained the evil of man without being tainted it by it for his own redemptive purposes, namely, He provided us with “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” What could be more redemptive than that?
“But,” we ask, “how does a child’s rape, or the death of thousands of people in Asia or the destruction of 9-11 or my own suffering…. How is that redemptive?” The short answer is- I don’t know – at least not fully – not even close. But consider this – How did you feel during the aftermath of 9-11? Did you not feel broken, weak, helpless, small? Did you not cry out in pain and weakness – Did not the cares of this life – your status, your money, your favorite sitcom fade out of focus for at least a moment and things that are far more important with a much more eternal perspective become relevant and valuable? What if God ordained the death of 2,993 people on 9-11 to humble a nation – to cause many to seek His face? Perhaps He was, at great cost, providing something of even greater value – something we so often forget to treasure – Himself – knowing Christ. Perhaps his purposes are not arbitrary and unloving but designed to bring us closer to the greatest treasure we could possibly imagine – more valuable than a pain-free existence, more valuable than not having been raped, more valuable than having our dead child still with us… Perhaps he is seeking to open our eyes to see and feel and know that there is nothing more valuable or more precious or more beautiful than knowing Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Isaiah 45:5-7
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things
Job 36:27-33
For he draws up the drops of water;
they distill his mist in rain,
which the skies pour down
and drop on mankind abundantly.
Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds,
the thunderings of his pavilion?
Behold, he scatters his lightning about him
and covers the roots of the sea.
For by these he judges peoples;
he gives food in abundance.
He covers his hands with the lightning
and commands it to strike the mark.
Its crashing declares his presence;
the cattle also declare that he rises.

Job 37:1-13
At this also my heart trembles
and leaps out of its place.
Keep listening to the thunder of his voice
and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
Under the whole heaven he lets it go,
and his lightning to the corners of the earth.
After it his voice roars;
he thunders with his majestic voice,
and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard.
God thunders wondrously with his voice;
he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
He seals up the hand of every man,
that all men whom he made may know it.
Then the beasts go into their lairs,
and remain in their dens.
From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
and cold from the scattering winds.
By the breath of God ice is given,
and the broad waters are frozen fast.
He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
the clouds scatter his lightning.
They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them
on the face of the habitable world.
Whether for correction or for his land
or for love, he causes it to happen.

Psalm 105:32
He gave them hail for rain,
and fiery lightning bolts through their land.

Amos 4:6-13
I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
and lack of bread in all your places,
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the LORD.
“I also withheld the rain from you
when there were yet three months to the harvest;
I would send rain on one city,
and send no rain on another city;
one field would have rain,
and the field on which it did not rain would wither;
so two or three cities would wander to another city
to drink water, and would not be satisfied;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the LORD.
“I struck you with blight and mildew;
your many gardens and your vineyards,
your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the LORD.
“I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
I killed your young men with the sword,
and carried away your horses,
and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the LORD.
“I overthrew some of you,
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,”
declares the LORD.
“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,
and declares to man what is his thought,
who makes the morning darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!

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