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How faith redeems the random.
The heap of life’s trials isn’t backdropped by an impersonal force but by a loving face.
Life can seem incredibly random sometimes. Events seem to be thrown at us with reckless abandon. And no, I don’t mean to get all metaphysical, here — but there are certain moments in our lives that don’t seem to fit into any so-called order or prescription. Those are the ones that often jolt us the most. The unexpected scenarios. The surprising dilemmas. The jarring junctures. The coffee-tumblers-that-spill-all-over-the-driveway type of mornings. (Is that too specific?) In the apparent randomness of life, our faith is often tested the most since it’s during those times that any belief that such erraticism is still within God’s divine ordination is quite strained. That notion can feel like a far-off hope or a “half-remembered dream,” to imbibe Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
Faith during the disordered days, though, is downstream of a certain doggedness in the what and the how of God’s self-revelation, a.k.a. the Bible. As I see it, there’s only one thing that allows us to get by or get through those times — namely, the promise that the perplexities of life aren’t unfamiliar to the God who is with us. This, I think, is what nineteenth-century churchman Alexander Maclaren was getting in the following excerpt:
Life is not a heap of unconnected incidents, like a number of links flung down on the ground, but the links are a chain, and the chain has a staple. It is not a law without a law-giver that shapes men’s lives. It is not a blind, impersonal chance that presides over it. Why, these very meteors that astronomers expect in autumn to be flying and flashing through the sky in apparent wild disorder, all obey law. Our lives, in like manner, are embodied thoughts of God’s, in as far as the incidents which befall them are concerned. We may mar, we may fight against, may contradict the presiding divine purpose; but yet, behind the wild dance of flashing and transitory lights that go careering all over the sky, there guides, not an impersonal Power, but a living, loving Will. (15:2.220–21)
There’s a lot going on in this excerpt from Rev. Maclaren, to be sure. But what stands out to me is his stubborn — read: faithful — insistence that behind the heap of life’s trials isn’t backdropped by an impersonal force. No, behind it all there is a loving face. It is the bruised and battered face of the one who embraced the intensest crucible of suffering in order that dead sinners could be resurrected. It is the face of Love Incarnate. The randomness, then, though piercingly discombobulating, isn’t ultimately unruly. There is one who rules, there is one who redeems, and there is one who can put all the jagged pieces of our lives back together again. He’s the God of it all and in it all. And he’s right there with us, all along the way.
Grace and peace.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vols. 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1944).