I just wrote a little review of FAITH IN THE SHADOW OF A PANDEMIC for my church newsletter. (The Reader’s Digest version is that this is an excellent and useful book.)

Pondering that cluster of 14 devotions reminded me of many conversations I’ve had since I was 12. I’m not talking (this time) about the folks in shopping malls who insist on telling me that “if I was REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEALLY a Christian” that God would have healed me by now.

I’m talking about people who are struggling with issues (illness, grief, racism, cruelty, hurricanes, etc.) that bother them, and they want to discuss them with someone who believes in God in spite of it all. There’s a word for that: theodicy.

Most of the time, I have learned that this is the time for me to close my mouth and open my ears. People need the freedom to wrestle with and grieve these sore places in their lives. We don’t live in some sort of cross between Utopia and Candyland. (Well… Maybe it is a little bit like Thomas More’s Utopia, which is actually kind of dark. Come to think of it, most utopian novels are rather bleak, so NEVERMIND!)

While our universe certainly has loveliness, it is also broken. We are broken and corrupted by sin. (That’s a whole different discussion, even when it leaks into what I’m saying here.)

One of my friends told me that they found great consolation in the number of times that Bob Ross (of “Joy of Painting” fame) said, “Every highlight needs its own shadow. Without it, this world we’re painting is flat and lifeless.”

I don’t know that it’s exactly SCRIPTURAL, but it feels useful to me. It also reminds me of one of my favorite J.R.R. Tolkien quotes:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


My pastor and his oldest son had a thorough discussion about that quote. Apparently, it was rather far-ranging. I would’ve loved to eavesdrop!

I forgot where I was going with all of this.

One Reply to “Bob Ross, J.R.R. Tolkien, and a Theodicy and Me”

  1. Luther, when asked why God permits the innocent to suffer, is reputed to say that he didn’t know, but that the person should ask Him herself. She’d find Him hanging on a cross.

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