Pause for thought: ‘I am making all things new!’
Whenever we watch the news, it can swiftly induce a range of questions which all boil down to asking where God is in all we see. What is God doing? Why doesn’t He stop the Ukraine war? How can He allow so much suffering? What about the plight of the refugees? The separated families? The amount of loss. Also when we consider our own lives, the ups and downs, the challenges and joys, the health and ill-health, similar questions may arise. All of human history can perhaps also make us ask ‘where is God?’
These are honest and fair questions. Many theologians throughout Church history have bravely attempted to grapple with them. Many books have resulted from this work. Many conferences and rich conversations have been enjoyed. This work has brought the full range of issues into focus. It is tempting to name some of them here and the responses theologians have worked incredibly hard to offer. That would require another sizeable reflection. And yet: let’s valuably pause here to notice some passages of scripture that offer hope within the confusion suffering produces.
Firstly, Matthew 13:24-30. In this glorious passage we perhaps get a clarifying and hopefully assuring glimpse from Jesus as to why the world is as it is: ‘Jesus told them another parable. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from? An enemy did this, he replied. The servants asked him, do you want us to go and pull them up? No, he answered, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ Of course no one passage speaks wholly to the problem of evil, but there is a hint from Jesus here that there is a logic to things holding together as they are for now, that it is not God’s desire that suffering and evil should be, and that there is a reckoning to come which will finally wipe away every tear.
Secondly, Jesus acknowledges that this life will have troubles and joys, but crucially the victory is already won. John 16: ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’
Thirdly, Jesus is making all things new. Rev 21: ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’’
He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ This is a promise at work today.
Revd Chris Thomson