“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now.” A warning from God or else! Perhaps in jest or perhaps in search for leverage from sympathetic voters, this is what presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said during a campaign stop in Florida.
While Representative Bachmann received criticism for this statement, hers is but an echo of our general attitude towards divine providence when faced with trials and tragedies. When the disastrous effects of Katrina settled down in New Orleans, not a few people said it was punishment by God for a sinful city. When Haiti was hit by an earthquake, one time presidential candidate Pat Robertson said it was punishment for voodooism. When our love ones die, we say God has taken them away. Even now the old saying, “God giveth and God taketh away” has become a cliche in funeral discourses. But really is God to blame? How can a God merciful and gracious and abundant in loving kindness cause us to be unhappy? Fact is he couldn’t and he wouldn’t. We find it easy to blame God, but we forget about random events or unforeseen circumstances. We also tend not to blame ourselves for our actions, our schemes and personal as well as aggregate choices. Most of all, we forget about the original sin that threw us and our children out of a fulfilled life under God’s favor and protection.
God never left us, but we left him and so we suffer the consequences. Interestingly, the very book that presidents-elect lay their hands on during inauguration day says in James 1:13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (KJV) The NWT puts it more in perspective: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.”
So Ms. Bachmann, God does not inflict our woes, tempt or take our happiness away. Sure he can remedy human errors and prevent death. He can also manipulate earthquakes and hurricanes, but God who has the power to restore everything allows these to run their natural course so that through pain and want we can strengthen our faith and move towards reconciliation with him.