If you haven't been wondering over the past few months what God has against us, you're probably one of the few. With so much devastation and death wreaked on our world and this country by the virus and sheer self-serving political incompetency, only the most calloused could claim it is all part of God's good and loving plan for us.
You may have never thought of yourself as a theologian, but you actually are. Any time you sit and wonder about the nature of God (or what in the world God is up to), you are doing theology. If you're having trouble reconciling what you see going on in the world around you now — the death, the hateful behavior toward others, the corruption — with a good and loving God, you're not alone. It's nice to let ourselves off the hook by blaming everything on God, unfortunately, that's bad theology, a rookie mistake.
No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one… Do not be deceived, my beloved. Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. — James 1:13, 16, 17
It's understandable we bring God into the picture when faced with a reality that seems beyond comprehension right now. God is, after all, pretty much incomprehensible no matter how many words we try to put around God. Human beings, being what they are, try to make sense out of things. We look for patterns. This is why we see shapes and faces in cloud formations. Unfortunately, this is also why without sufficient information, people tend to default to conspiracy theories. We're just trying to make sense of everything, and to be fair, it's pretty tough right now making sense of what is going on in our world.
There is an old Episcopal preacher story that goes like this: A terrible hurricane hit an island in the Caribbean. A newspaper reporter was interviewing religious leaders for their take on why this happened. She interviewed the evangelical preacher who said, "This is God's wrath being visited upon us for our sins!" Next, she interviewed the Roman Catholic Bishop of the island who said, "It is God testing the faith of his people." Finally, she went to the Episcopal Bishop. When asked why this terrible event occurred to the island, the Bishop thought for a moment, but then shrugged and said, "It's hurricane season."
Episcopalians tend to be pretty practical about this stuff. Humans have evolved alongside viruses for millennia. Right now, there's a bad one out there we are fighting. That doesn't mean God is responsible for the hurricane. But what we are responsible for is our reaction. We are responsible for how we love and care for one another during this difficult time.
While God does not cause evil, God seems to have a knack for bringing good out of the worst situations. Think of the passion for racial equality and reform that has risen from the death of George Floyd. Think of the humanity and witness of the diary that a young girl, Anne Frank, kept during the Nazi occupation. Think of the thousands of nurses and doctors serving selflessly and at much personal risk every day during this pandemic.
No, the hand of God is not in the hurricane, but we can have courage. The hand of God is in us... how you and I care for one another, our kindness even toward strangers, and how we step forward to help heal this broken world.