Some months ago a friend asked if I would write about why I am interested in theology. There are a lot of answers to that question. The most important answer is one that leads into this month’s poem from Mom: I am interested in theology because theology is ultimately the study of God, and the better we know God, the better we can trust him.
Yes, I realize this doesn’t always seem true. Sometimes in our walk with God we discover, to use C.S. Lewis’s famous words, that “he isn’t safe.” And it may take longer to learn the rest of the couplet: “But he’s good.”
But listen to these words of Scripture. Isn’t it ultimately true that the better we learn to know God, the better we can trust him? Listen to the testimony of David:
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. (Ps. 9:10)
…And the insights into God’s nature that Abraham, the friend of God, possessed:
…The God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist… No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Rom. 4:17, 20-21)
And consider the two-fold confidence of true faith:
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb. 11:6, emphasis added)
Only with a firm grasp on the existence and goodness of God can we survive the apparently meaningless suffering of this world. Only when we are confident that God grasps us can we rest in his care. Theology—the rational study of God’s character and actions, past, present and future—can thus be a springboard for a faith that carries us far beyond what our rational minds can understand.
I’ll let Mom continue from here. May God strengthen your faith as you read her words.
God has created us as rational beings, but because we are limited in knowledge and bounded by time and space, the key to peace of mind in this sin-cursed universe is not reason, but faith. Totally senseless accidents occur and tragedy stalks our days on earth. But “God is love” and “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” I John 4:8;1:5 That is the only safe foundation for security and sanity.
This poem was written in 1999 after an accident that was not only tragic but full of painful ironies. Parents of 3 die during safety stop read one newspaper headline. Why should two loving parents die while attempting to secure their children’s seat belts, leaving three very young children behind as orphans? Why should God allow the foot of a conscientious father to slip at an intersection with a dangerous incline?
Though we were not closely acquainted with the family, we, like many others in our broader church family and beyond, were deeply moved by the incident. How do we interpret our world and our God at such a time? Only by holding fast to faith in our unchanging God and in His love for us can we find comfort. Only by believing His good intent for His children can we find hope and meaning in an unpredictable and often painful world.
Some of my poems expressing grief are free-verse, apparently as spontaneous and uncontrolled as the tears and confused outpourings of a broken heart. This poem is a sonnet, very structured in form, perhaps an attempt on my part to impose form and pattern and some reason on an unpredictable world. But my ultimate hope rests on God’s promises of a new heaven and new earth where perfection will finally be realized and our anguished questions will be a dim memory.
ONLY GOD’S WORLD
Why trust this God Who labelled His world good,
With perfect seasons carefully designed,
If senseless accidents can still intrude
And rend the closest ties of humankind?
What world but God’s endures loss and survives,
Can bear and beautify, can make grief seem
The awful tragedy it is, in that our lives
Require divine involvement to redeem?
For in a world that claims no God but chance,
There chaos is the norm and trust deceived.
All grief’s a joke where all is happenstance,
All love a waste where none can be believed.
If you would have your sorrow honoured, keep
Your faith in God Who sits with you to weep.
—Elaine Gingrich, December 1999
Note: This poem was printed in The Midwest Focus and later anthologized in Reflections of God’s Grace in Grief (c. 2009) which was written and compiled by Faythelma Bechtel, a dear lady who is closely acquainted with grief.
For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.
And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at . Thanks!
7 thoughts on “Only God’s World [Poem by Mom]”
A meaningful, thoughtful meditation on theodicy. Thank you.
Thank you for your affirming words. “That I may know Him.” That I may know Him even and especially in the darkness.
As an English major, I appreciate this level of poetry writing coming from the Mennonite world.
As a fellow English major, I give my doubly-biased agreement. 🙂 Blessings as you use your training for the Kingdom!
I came across this post and oh the memories that it brings back. For those of you that would not know and would have no way of making the connection, the above referred to couple were my brother and sister-in-law.
That day and some of the things that transpired after that which were both directly and indirectly related to that incident have left a deep mark on my life that is still affecting me to this day and probably will affect me for the remainder of my life.
I am not going to go into that into depth here but I did want to share this one little tidbit as it relates to the article above.
If there is one phrase that I think of when I remember Sandy it is this. “God is good.” He repeated it often. At work and elsewhere. It was not just a lightly made comment but something he believed from the depth of his heart.
And over the years when I have been tempted to question that goodness I am often reminded of the quiet assurance with which he emphasized that phrase. It has given me the faith I need to believe that, even at the lowest times in my life experiences.
And God in his graciousness has given me amble examples of his goodness, even good things that have come out of this horrible tragedy. Things that are far to numerous and in some cases too personal to recount here but enough of them to give me the confidence that even those things that still look horribly black to my way of thinking will in the grand scheme of things, still work out for good.
Yes, I can today declare beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is good!
Thank you Steve! You have walked through the blackest of darkness and yet you have held on to faith in God. Your testimony that “God is good” is powerful and heart-touching.
Steve, your words are a great encouragement and a wonderful testimony to God’s faithfulness! Thanks for taking time to share here.