Two friends1 have in different ways prompted this post. One is a technologist trained in the sciences, who in the context of dissatisfaction with understanding the how of a particular area of theology wrote:2
Can someone tell me how I can learn to become more comfortable with mystery?
The other is someone who is troubled (in the context of talk about unmerited suffering and the justice of God, by me ascribing much that happens to “chance”.
The justice of God has troubled me all my life, as far back as I can remember I have been aware not only of “those less fortunate” but even of those who suffer acutely for no just cause. The book of Job is a comfort, Job does not know why he suffers, complains bitterly to God and demands a hearing for his complaint against the injustice of the creator. His judicial complaint receives no hearing, except by human judges who fail to accept his plea (the three friends, or even more Elihu, who not having actively participated before steps in in Job 32 to sum up, which he does ineptly and justifying God by failing to admit the justice of Job’s case). However, before the book ends Job receives two responses from God which, though they do not respond to Job’s accusation, remind Job of who God is and of how wondrous it is that a creature can relate to their Creator!
The answer to (almost?) all the big questions is a deeper layer of mystery.
In responding to people who complain of the injustice of life3 I point to Job, but even more to Jesus who in Luke 13:1-5 makes clear that much (all?) suffering in this world is not justice meted out by a vengeful or benevolent Creator but simply chance.
To say this, however, is not the whole story, for in Scripture there is no such thing as “chance”. When Joseph (in Gen 37) wandering aimlessly in the land around Shechem just happens to meet the one man who can tell him where his brothers have gone and so sets in motion all the rest of the events of his life, Bible readers know this is not random. When Ruth (Ruth 2:3) just happens to glean in Boaz’ field (in all the fields of Bethlehem why did you have to pick this one?) we know this “happening” is not random. And when Amos pondering war other disasters says:
Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster befall a city, unless the LORD has done it?
He recognises that the bad, like the good, must be ultimately laid at the door of the Maker of All.4
This chance that is not random, like the unloving injustice of the God who is love, and justice, is a mystery. It is one we cannot understand in this life. Though perhaps God on a stick, Christ crucified, points towards the resolution of this terrible paradox.