On the mind of the Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Jung-Chul Lee

Oct 7, 2022

…for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

– Matthew 5:45 –

We had some rain this past week. Down south, it was a lot worse. Scientists have now called Hurricane Ian a “500-Year Flood Event.” We are still counting the costs–not only in terms of finances and property, but much more so, in terms of human life.

When things like this happen, the inevitable questions follow: “How could God let this happen? How could God allow this?” Insurance companies even refer to such weather events as “acts of God.” And much of the time, these questions turn quickly to the conclusion that there is, in fact, no God. Hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, the Greek philosopher Epicurus articulated it as follows:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

When I was a younger priest, I was loaded for bear whenever these questions arose. I had all the answers, and could articulate them in a way that disproved the objections beyond any logical argument. But inevitably, when I unleashed these (what I thought were) brilliant and well-crafted retorts, the same thing always happened–people in grief had their grief deepened. Now, not only were they suffering from some great loss or tragedy. Now, they were also suffering from having their pain intellectually dismissed and delegitimized by their priest.

As I began to wrestle with this problem (once I realized it was a problem), I began to notice something–that’s not how God answers these questions in Scripture. God never, in fact, offers a carefully crafted intellectual argument in defense of God’s goodness and character. Instead, time and time again, what God offers is at the same time both more simple and more powerful–namely, God’s own presence–God’s own self.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,” the Psalmist writes. I don’t know what “storms” you’re facing right now, but whatever it might be, hear these words as the heart of God’s promise to you: I will never leave you. I am with you. I feel this too. This is so hard. But no matter what comes, we will get through this together. And I will never, ever let you go.