I feel so blessed to be involved with the amazing conversations you all have generated. Thanks for the great questions – and keep them coming!
Today’s question comes from Sandra who wrote: “Aron Rolston addresses the rock that has his arm so inextricably pinned in a deep Utah canyon that he has to sever his arm with a Swiss army knife: “This rock has been waiting for me my whole life.” Really? Is this how God works? Is life just a ‘set-up’? Is there such a thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time or can I expect a trap somewhere along the way?”
I realize some of you may not be familiar with the story of Aron Rolston. If you don’t know his story, here is a link to his Wikipedia entry: Aron Rolston.
The issue raised for me by your question, Sandra, is an issue many people raise: does God have a plan for us and – if so –why would God plan for us to experience pain and suffering?
When folks ask this question, I find many forget about the existence of an important theological concept in our faith tradition: the notion of free will. Free will creates space for things to unfold in such a manner in which God is not responsible for every event.
In the case of your question about Aron, for instance, there is not one part of me that believes God caused the rock to fall on Aron in order to teach him a lesson. Instead, I believe that the circumstances in the wilderness unfolded in such a way that the rock fell and Aron happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
Thankfully, Aron was a remarkable young man who had been on a rich spiritual journey that gave him the strength and courage to deal with the events that unfolded. In those moments of excruciating pain and suffering, Aron was able to draw upon those resources so he could do what he needed to do in order to get out.
In that way, I believe God was present and active in Aron’s circumstance: not as the cause of his challenge but as the source of his strength and comfort.
I do not believe that God is waiting to spring a series of traps upon us to challenge us. I do believe, however, that certain things will happen in our lives that undoubtedly will challenge us. Our goal, therefore, is to live lives of depth and meaning and acquire tools that help will help us deal with those challenges. Thankfully, we have something else besides the tools we acquire on our own that will help us get through those challenges. We have God’s grace to fill in the gaps!
So how about you? What do you think?