God's Will *IS* Best
One of our readers wrote to me Thursday morning:
"My heart sank as your prayer requests went out for "Tim and Ilya Smith, whose house burned down on Ash Wednesday, killing their daughter, Felicia." and then shocked when you wrote: "God's will is best." Because of the proximity of the two sentences, I believe I understand you to say that it was God's will that Felicia suffered and died. IF that is what you meant, please, please explain to me your understanding. It is contrary to everything I know about our Lord. It is my belief that Jesus wept over such an event, even though it did not catch him by surprise. It is my belief that the mystery of her death can only be partially understood in the context of living in a broken, fallen world, where God, making us in his likeness gave us free wills; and that it is our fallen nature, which causes us to suffer these kinds of things, not God's intention or purpose. "
We're on the same page here without realizing it. I fully agree, God has never willed human death or suffering, never even willed corruptibility. All of those things came on the scene SOLELY because of fallen humanity, because of our free will. I fully agree that God weeps with the broken hearts of Tim, Ilya, Felicia and all who suffer. I fully believe that God recoiled in pain at Felicia's end. Were this not the case, I would have no relationship with God other than fear, and I'd hope to have enough personal integrity to not even have that. I tend to be not really fond of mean....
Ah, but come quite inevitably suffering and death did, and with us they shall irrevocably remain for all time. No one, no one at all is exempt from their terrible whimsy. Not innocent children, not even dumb animals nor inanimate elements are spared this all-encompassing decay and pain and loss. Not even Jesus and His Mother, the two most wonderful humans to ever live, were spared. Not for an instant. That should tell us something very awesome about God's firm resolve to respect our free will utterly. He left us with all those earthly consequences, even though, in His changeless Love and Mercy, He gave us His own Son as a sure way to getting eternally out of them in heaven.
None of this was the way God planned things. None of it. Check out Eden, check out Paradise, that's what God willed and that's all He willed: perfect joy and bliss and union with Him. And God never changes. He does not will one thing today and change His mind tomorrow. That optimal best of a love so exquisite that we shall be eternally overwhelmed by its wonder is His will for each of us, once and for all. Nothing at all can thwart that love and will except free will, and the garbage of millions of years of human insistence has left us with a tangled cobweb of past bad choices than none can escape in this life.
Jesus died. Mary died. Felicia died. So will you, so will I. It would be nice if our yet to come ends were in our own bed, with the priest beside us and the oils of anointing fresh on our foreheads, but they could just as well be otherwise. Surely most those who crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 had often hoped for a peaceful and easy end, but it was not theirs. Evil, death, suffering, illness, corruptibility, transience, all of these wag dangerously in our fallen world like broken power lines in a hurricane. Like those inanimate power lines, they neither think, plan, nor care whom they strike. Alas, that is the human condition.
We speak almost casually of the brokenness of the world without realizing that the brokenness extends to hearts, to even our deepest and holiest loves. Surely the love that God-fearing people like Tim and Ilya had for Felicia wished so much more, only the best for their promising daughter in college. That their love and their hearts were broken and crushed did not necessarily have anything to do at all with the purity and holiness of either. It happened, perhaps, in spite of such purity. Only in heaven shall we regain the ability to love purely and have things guaranteed to work as we'd wish. Here, even our dearest love is at risk and we are powerless to remove that risk entirely, just as God Himself was powerless to spare His own Son as soon as He became human. We all reap the bitter fruits of a one-time human insistence on OUR plan. Miserably, our plan lacked the wisdom of God, as is all too readily apparent.
Humans were not the only ones to rebel, nor the first. Angels did, too. Now there's a problem: the fallen angels have greater intelligence and powers than ourselves and they meddle against the will of God endlessly. We are not powerless, as Christians, against Satan and his followers, but they can certainly get in the way of things temporarily! Our Christian faith, baptism and grace can and do protect us from them in a real sense, but they can still annoy and bother!
Why mention Satan? Because, even when we agree to cling to the will of God with all our hearts, there are other entities, human and otherwise, busily cooperating with evil, whether knowingly or otherwise. This can create a LOT of short-term problems, although, if we only turst and love God's will, the long-term victory is assured us. In the meantime, all these counter forces shuffling pieces of the puzzle to their own designs can really slow things down, even temporarily divert the trains altogether. But ONLY temporarily.
God and God alone can turn evil to good. God and God alone can turn loss into triumph. When we accept His will, rather than undergo it, we plug into that inestimable ability of God that only God has. God permits evil, permits suffering and death. They are part and parcel of the idea of His giving us free will, and God cannot go back on His word. So yeah, all those painful things that are the result of original sin still happen, but also yeah, God can and does use them for our highest and unimaginable good. We have only to allow Him!! Believing His will is best for us is how we allow Him, so is trust, so is love.
Trust me when I tell you that I know from experience that human life can be crushingly awful. It can. As I look back on some of the worst times, I am SO glad I didn't get my way- it could have been so much worse, and so much good would have been missed. Had God asked my 47 year old Dad and me whether or not we wanted him to die, both of us would have doubtless said no. My Dad would have cringed at what might have happened without him. I was only ten. I thought my world had ended. Still, I would in no way be the person I am today had he not gone to God. Not possible. Wouldn't have happened. Probably wouldn't be a monk and probably wouldn't be writing this. Thanks Dad, thanks God. I owe you both!!! Much of who I am came to be precisely BECAUSE the things that my Dad would have wished to prevent befell me. God is not thwarted ultimately, not ever!
Houses burned, daughters and fathers dead, loves lost and lives apparently ruined are terrible consequences of a will OTHER than divine, our own free will and that of others. However there is great hope, even in this. None of the things, not one, that happen in this life cannot be turned to good, to eternity of bliss, to God. That is His power to overcome ALL evil ultimately, of whatever sort. In fact, He already HAS overcome the world. it's just that our finite eyes cannot see that yet, but it IS a reality. ALl temporal loss is apparent. Tough, no doubt, but not lasting. Only God lasts.
The Lord told St. Faustina that ALL creatures do His will, whether they want to or not, whether they know it or not. That means that the will of God for our best good is already out there as a whole reality, a done deal. We can plug into it or join the on-going resistance. The choice is ours. He will always, always, always lead us to the best. For our part, we need only trust and follow!
Love and prayers,
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