Just recently, a reader asked for activities to help children think about the recent Australian bush fires. Here are some ideas, which equally apply to other times when hard things happen.
Activity – Look for the Helpers
Fred Rodgers has good advice for all of us when the problems of the world seem overwhelming: Look for the helpers.
This activity helps us to think about people who help and what we can do if we see people hurting.
You will need:
- Two long poles, such as broom handles
- Several coats or sweatshirts
What to do:
- Turn the sleeves inside out and do up any zippers or buttons.
- Thread the poles down the sleeves and out of the bottom of the coats and sweatshirts. You may need 3 or four.
- Now you have a stretcher for carrying someone who is injured. Take turns in carrying each other.
- We all need help from time to time. Talk about how we can use what we have to carry each other. What can you do, practically?
Meditation – Tear Drop Prayers
Cut out some paper into teardrop shapes.
- Read Psalm 27:1, 4-9, or other similar psalms of lament.
- Compose your own psalm or prayer, either about global problem or your own situation of a friend’s.
- Write your psalm on a teardrop.
If God is good and God is powerful, why do bad things happen? Why doesn’t God stop volcanos erupting, or stop people getting cancer, or stop car crashes??
It’s a very relevant question, and one that believers have wrestled with for as long as there have been believers. For many non-believers, it’s their reason for rejecting God. And I quite understand.
- Perhaps God is not good, (the thinking goes) and he causes the disasters. That’s not what I’d call a god, and certainly not something I’d want to worship.
- Perhaps God is good, but either doesn’t know or can’t do anything about it. What a weakling! There would be no point worshipping him.
- Perhaps God is good and powerful, but just doesn’t care. Is that why he lets bad things happen? That would be just mean. Who would worship a god like that?
If God is like that, then I’d agree with Stephen Fry. When asked what he’d like to say to God, Fry replied: “I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain. That’s what I would say.”
I agree. But that’s not the God I read about in the Bible.
C.S Lewis discusses the matter in ‘The Problem of Pain’. The problem, he states, is that “If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy, and if He were almighty He would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.” Again, this is not the God I find in the Bible, who is all good, all powerful, and all caring.
So what gives?
If the Bible is true and God is all good, all powerful and all caring, then why does the world have such bad stuff in it? I don’t understand.
And therein lies the problem.
I don’t understand.
I’m not giving this as a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of evil. Minds much greater than mind have wrestled and will continue to wrestle with this to the end of time, and I’m certainly not giving a trite dismissal of real people very real situations, which can be heart-breakingly tragic. I’ve been through a couple myself, so please understand that this is not in anyway diminishing the reality of the pain of human life.
I don’t understand. I don’t understand quite a lot of things.
One of them is Quantum Mechanics. Despite (or possibly because of) degree-level physics courses, I still don’t really ‘believe in’ things like quantum entanglement. It goes against everything we know about how the world works. It predicts impossible things. It’s counter-intuitive, unreasonable, and just plain ridiculous.
Unfortunately, it also seems to be true.
Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman is credited with saying, “If you think you understand Quantum Mechanics, you don’t.” “The paradox caused by what we observe is, “only a conflict between reality and your feeling of what reality ought to be.” In other words, the problem is not with Quantum Mechanics, but with our understanding.
So given that I “don’t get” QM, and a whole load of other things, why would I imagine that I would fully understand God?
C.S. Lewis takes this approach, conceding that since he is not God, he would expect his own views of Good and Evil to differ from God’s in certain points. Hopefully not too much, but enough that there might be things that, from his perspective seem, indeed are, bad, yet are viewed differently by God. The problem is not with God, but with his understanding.
Lewis was speaking from personal experience, as he watched his wife died from cancer. Yet in ‘A Greif Observed, he says, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
In the end, perhaps the best we can do is to mourn with those who mourn, and remember that “this too, shall pass”.
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
(By David) A Prayer of Praise
You, Lord, are the light
that keeps me safe.
I am not afraid of anyone.
You protect me,
and I have no fears.
I ask only one thing, Lord:
Let me live in your house
every day of my life
to see how wonderful you are
and to pray in your temple.
In times of trouble,
you will protect me.
You will hide me in your tent
and keep me safe
on top of a mighty rock.
You will let me defeat
all of my enemies.
Then I will celebrate,
as I enter your tent
with animal sacrifices
and songs of praise.
Please listen when I pray!
Have pity. Answer my prayer.
My heart tells me to pray.
I am eager to see your face,
so don’t hide from me.
I am your servant,
and you have helped me.
Don’t turn from me in anger.
You alone keep me safe.
Don’t reject or desert me.
Contemporary English Version
Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society
Stephen Fry interview https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/stephen-fry-blasphemy-god-ireland-confronted-by-met-a7722191.html
Richard Feynman, in The Feynman Lectures on Physics, vol III, p. 18-9 (1965)