The Cruelty of Nature
Cresting far overhead, a towering wall of saltwater crashes to the earth. Screams cut short. Frantic fathers whose children are ripped from their arms by the force of the water. Whole villages of unsuspecting mothers and sons and grandfathers and uncles and newborns, pets, livestock, dreams, hopes — gone into the sea. How could a good God allow such a thing?
The evil men do can be blamed on men, perhaps, but what of the evil done by the uncaring natural world? Diseases, birth defects, famines, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, meteors, and on and on and on. Nature is a horribly and unthinkingly violent force. Why?
I believe it comes down to this: God wants children who are free. We’re not free yet, but we are becoming. All of nature is becoming. These are the throes of birthing. The universe we know was conceived in the violence of the Big Bang. It has grown through the violence of evolution — both inanimate and animate things are formed by it. This isn’t so much something that has happened to us; it’s something we are. We are formed out of the substance of God, but we are not God. God hasn’t dictated anything about us — not our shape or our manner of communication or our organic composition. We have developed as freely as possible, subject to the freedoms of the rest of creation.
And the rest of creation has also developed freely, and continues to do so. Often that free development benefits us such as in the production of food, the supply of water, the warm promise of the sunshine. Sometimes though, it distresses and worries us. If the rains don’t fall, or if the tectonic plates slip, or if the load of snow on the mountainside above you begins to shift, then disastrous things happen. At least, they seem disastrous to us.
In a sense they are disastrous. Looked at from a purely naturalistic point of view, death is the end. Mutilation is irreversible (if the surgeons can’t help). Those who go into the sea are lost forever. With human beings, these things are impossible to rectify, but with God, nothing is impossible. All live unto Him, and death is but a transition into reality.
We are here to learn and become. So are all of God’s creatures — both animate and inanimate. Paul wrote about this:
The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs–heirs of God and coheirs with Christ–seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility–not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it–in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.
And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits–we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. (Rom 8:16-25 HCSB)
In our lives here, wonderful things happen, and horrible things too. God will work all these things together for our good — for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. That isn’t exclusive. It is vastly inclusive, for all are called according to His purposes. Some will come later than others, but the entire creation is to be redeemed in the redemption of the sons of God.
Right now, we are engulfed in the throes of birth — of becoming. We cry out now as the pains wash over us in great waves of darkness and death, but when the birth is complete, we will rejoice. All of us. We’ll forget the agony of the birthing for joy that a completed and perfected creation is born into the world.