confidence in God free choice

We Shall Not Be Shaken

6:30:00 AMUnknown

A couple days ago, I was reflecting on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, which was the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history. When disaster strikes, there seems to be a hushed but palpable question in people’s minds, “How could God do this?” “Where was your God when this happened?” These are some of the most prevalent questions among non-believers and, for some, these are the source of their unbelief.

After Christ’s death on the Cross, a new meaning of suffering came about. There is a greater good which can arise from our suffering. We must be conscious of the infinite distance that lies between our limited vision and the omniscient, all-comprehensive mind of God. In suffering, we are touched by the merciful hand of God. It can provide us with an occasion of making atonement for our sins. Suffering serves to make us completely detached from sin, invites us to atone for the sins of others, and allows us to participate in the pain of Christ on the Cross. Even though a Christian may be engulfed in the abyss of darkness, tempted to despair, he must believe in the “supernatural meaning of suffering illuminated with the love of God” (41). And with this, he must trust that his “sorrow may be turned into joy” (John 16:20).

Von Hildebrand, however, warns us that we must oppose evil. Though God can bring great good out of an evil, this does not change the fact that this evil is not a good. These intrinsically bad things are not an expression of God’s will, yet he permits them to happen. This in no way relieves us of the moral obligation to combat this evil force when it confronts us.
When we feel powerless in actively opposing evil, von Hildebrand demands that we must pray that God breaks “the pride of our enemies and with the power of [His] right hand, strike down their insolence” (43). Our confidence in Him should stem from the mysterious truth of His hidden meaning and value. God’s permission does not diminish the nature of that evil or the “negative value-character inherent in its content” (43). However, positive aspects may be recognized in the indirect consequences such as the trial of the virtuous.

God intends for us to meet evil things with an adequate response. We are not to compromise with evil. Another thing to keep in mind is that God has not turned His face on us. The triumphs of evil are passing. Ultimately, there remains a mystery as to why God permits these triumphs to occur. We know that this, to an extent, can be explained by the fact that God ensures our freedom of will, but von Hildebrand confirms that “we must not presume to unriddle the secrets of God” (45).

Although it seems as though this puzzling matter may go beyond our meager human understanding, we must, in these times, rest secure in God’s infinite love. Through prayer and sacrifice we receive a confidence in God that provides us with insurmountable strength for the struggle of life.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, Confidence in God (Manchester: Sophia Institute, 1997).

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