I write dangerously and could be dangerously misunderstood. I am sure I will be criticised in some Christian circles and I am bound to be criticised in the circles of those with no religion or those who adhere to foreign religions. So what if I said, “God is in control of the fires and drought?”
Some Christians will baulk because of embarrassment while other Christians will be mistakenly reductionist. Those with less positive views of God or His son Jesus Christ will, fists clenched, declare it’s why they hate God. Of course all of us will struggle with the question, “If God is good, why does God allow such suffering?” That would be a good question if we were prepared to ask some other equally good questions. For example: If I am not good should God let us all suffer? If I care nothing for God, should God care anything for me? Are circumstances of life used by God to educate us in wise living? None of us would allow a single question to impugn our character and life is more complicated than any single question.
I have to say God is in control of the fires and the drought, otherwise the prayers we pray would be wishful thinking - as useful as a public education that supports students to do rain dances, the same public education that often seeks to remove God from the curriculum. It was Chesterton who said, “When a man stops believing in God, he doesn't believe in nothing, he believes in anything.”
Christians pray because we believe that God is in control and can, if God so desires, bring our circumstances under control. If God is sovereign, while I may not understand what God is doing, I must understand that He is in control. Anything less would make God less than God and our prayers an exercise in futility and uncertainty.
Of course while God is sovereign over all things, God is certainly not wasteful. God does things purposefully. He wasted no colour or beauty when he created all things. He wasted no wisdom on a climate that sustains us. He wastes no justice when people turn in on themselves instead of turning out toward others. He wasted no love when an ill-informed and unbelieving humanity crucified His Son. He wastes no mercy when He shows grace to a world that does not deserve it.
In recent times I have been asked a question beyond anyone’s capacity to answer, “Are the fires and drought a judgement from God on our nation?” To offer a definitive answer is to go where only fools would tread. Personally, I am not as confident as some to apply motive to why God allows such things as fires, droughts or floods and nor do I want to suggest that people are getting what they deserve. Such responses are inappropriate and cruel.
These are not new things for a world of renewables. What I am confident to assert is that moments like these we have been experiencing as a nation are moments for deeper reflection. They are moments that make clear that some realities go beyond what human genius has the capacity to handle. It is in such moments that it becomes obvious we are not in control and a dependence upon God that issues in prayer is crucial.
While we may not be able to apply motive to what God is or isn’t doing, our circumstance as a nation should have us canvass every possibility and respond to every possibility in righteous ways. Whatever God’s reasons may be, a nation can’t go wrong if it pursues righteousness. That righteousness begins when God has his rightful place in our lives. It can be seen in people repenting of sin, replacing our many idols with the dependability of God. It can be seen in our turning out in love toward others offering the helping hand, giving and lending resources to help people back to their feet. Righteousness proves itself in many ways, but love for God and love for each other are an aspect of righteousness our nation needs now and always. Let’s love God and love our neighbour.