A bigger picture?

Sometime between 3:30 and 4 a.m. on the night after Easter Sunday, a miraculous thing happened, or so it seemed.

Kathy and I were huddled in the basement watching the weather radar on my phone as a menacing red line of violent, tornado-laden thunderstorms approached Easley from the west. It was a vertical line of destruction, heading right toward us.

As it got closer, though, it split in two, with one segment moving to the north of us and the other passing by to the south.

We were safe! God had heard our prayers.

But wait. What about those people who lived farther to the north and south of us, those who weren’t in the path of the storm until our prayers sent the hostile winds in their direction? I’m sure many of them were praying, too. I’m sure most of the people who got hit by tornadoes that night were praying just as hard as we were.

Well, we know the Lord works in mysterious ways — even though there’s not a verse in the Bible that actually says that.

But it got me to thinking about a theological question that I’ve been pondering a lot since the coronavirus pandemic struck. We often hear it said that “God is in control” — although that’s not a direct quote from the Bible either. But of course, He must be in control. He is, after all, God. He created everything that is.

In my way of thinking, God is in intimate communion with every molecule of every living thing, and His love imbues every atom of His vast, unfathomable creation.

So is anything that happens really random?

Certainly, a lot of bad things happen that seem to be random. Like, for example, the “random” mutation of a virus that makes it deadlier and more virulent — say, a “novel” coronavirus.

So, it doesn’t seem to make any sense, if you believe that God is the master and architect of the universe, that the mutation that caused this strain of coronavirus to come into being occurred without God knowing exactly what was going to happen, or even planning it.

Of course, if you take the view that human beings have free will — which depends on your belief concerning predestination — you can blame everything bad that happens on the bad choices and actions we make. But could our moral depravity cause a virus to mutate? If you believe eating one apple turned Eden into a paradise lost, maybe so.

Now, you could take the view of the deists — people like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin — that God created the universe and set the laws of nature in motion and then sat back and let it run. (In that view, maybe God is still “resting” from his creation. So maybe it’s still the Sabbath. The other six “days” might have been eons rather than 24-hour days.)

But I think there are too many instances of things happening that can’t be explained by nature as we understand it for God to be sitting on the sidelines of life. Or at least there must be some guardian angels at work in the world.

But why would God sit by and allow a mutant strain of virus to appear and to cause so much suffering by millions of his beloved children? For that matter, why did he ever create viruses?

These things are not even really living creatures. They’re nothing more than some chains of genetic material inside a protein shell, sometimes encased in a blob of fat. They can’t do anything unless they happen to drift into a living organism, and then all they can do is replicate and wreak havoc until they either kill the organism or the organism kills them.

I guess you could put this in the category with all sorts of things that seem to make no sense or to be unfair: like tornadoes, for example.

I can only conclude that there’s a bigger picture that we can’t see.

“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD.” (NKJV)

Maybe there are lessons to be learned from this pandemic that God, in his infinite wisdom, deems to be important enough to allow us to suffer through this.

Or maybe not.

I tend to be skeptical of the notion of prayer doing such things as moving tornadoes — but I’ll certainly be praying whenever one is headed our way.

So I take to heart the words of the psalmist: “I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp.” (NLT)

Well, that’s what the right side of my brain does. Obviously, my left brain still ponders things, or I wouldn’t have written this column.

I don’t know exactly how it all fits together, and maybe I never will. But I know the love of God is in me. And I know He’ll help me get through whatever comes my way. And I thank Him for that.