John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Haiti, Katrina, 911 and the Sovereignty of God

Just to start this whole conversation the right way, I want to push all of you towards World Vision's website where you can donate to the ongoing relief efforts to aid the people of Haiti. Some of you know that my family sponsors three little girls through World Vision -- each of them has the same birthday as one of our daughters. Anabel (my 10-year-old) shares a birthday with a little girl who lives in Port-au-Prince. We're waiting to hear if she's okay, and if we hear anything I'll let you know. This morning as the girls were being paid their allowances, Anabel asked if she could send hers to help, so I'm challenging you to match her $5.00. Leave a comment if you choose to take me up on the challenge. Like you, I've been thinking a lot about the devastation and chaos Haitians are experiencing now. It reminds me of the events of 2005 -- and the events of September 11, 2001. I had personal friends -- some of you reading this blog -- lost everything they own in Katrina. I had other friends who were in NYC and watched the towers fall. Between those two events was the massive destruction that came in the form of a tsunami in the country of Sri Lanka. How quickly we forget disasters that don't touch our own, eh?

I remember hearing an editorial on NPR after Katrina that said something like, "As the debate over Intelligent Design continues, Katrina makes me think: If there's a Designer, he's got a lot to answer for."

Around then I received an email from a good friend. He wrote:

Hey John — I’d like to hear more of your thoughts about God’s sovereignty…. I’m struggling to understand how to keep the world functioning if God is completely in control but chooses not to exercise that control in all situation. It seems incongruent to say that God is gracious and then observe all the devastation in Louisiana and Mississippi. It seems incongruent to say that God is our Protector, when I got a phone call yesterday that an acquaintance from our early married years was struck and killed by a train yesteerday, leaving a wife and 14, 12, and 10 year old daughters.

Why does it seem so strange to me that someone in either of these situations could have the response of Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him”? Is it strange because I value this life too much? Is it strange because it seems weird to love and surrender your life to Someone who could take that love and give you something like death in response?

In all my growing up years and in all my adult years, no one has offered a real discussion about what the Bible says about all this, and I don’t know where to look for answers. Based on how I was raised, the answer to the dilemma is to just swallow down what I don’t know and accept it (some questions just don’t have answers in this life); not accepting this truism about God’s character could create a fissure in my faith that might result in me having major doubts, and doubts lead to falling away, and that’s really, really bad.

I could use some help in trying to put knowledge to my belief. God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good. I believe that, but it’s very challenging to know why in the face of these situations. Call it blind faith or emotional belief-ism, but I want to have some rationale for the truth that seems untrue right now.

How would you respond to my friend?