What to Do When Your Fig Tree Doesn’t Blossom
We can trust the person of God even when we can't grasp the plan of God.
Picture Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. He's swinging on a swing in the school playground. Picture a bully named Mo, twice as big as Calvin. He wants the swing and says, "Get off the swing, Twinky." Calvin responds, "Forget it Mo. Wait your turn." The next frame has no words. It just shows a huge roundhouse punch that that sends Calvin spinning. The last frame has Calvin on the ground with a black eye, musing, "Sometimes it's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning."
Ain't it the truth? Calvin has captured with humor, somewhat dark humor, what the theologians call "The Problem of Evil." Habakkuk, whose name means "wrestler" or "embracer," captured the same message with no humor. Habakkuk looked around at his Israelite society, and what did he see?
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you "Violence!"
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise (Habakkuk 1:2-3).
We lament at the problem of evil and suffering.
If you love and fear God, then you feel the same way about the world as Habakkuk did. Turn on the evening news. Listen to that story about the convicted sex offender, who's loose again, back on the prowl. Something in your heart says, "How long, O Lord? Why do you make me see iniquity?"
A few months ago, I was meeting with my small group in my house on a Sunday evening. One of the couples had brought a friend with them, a pastor from India who overseers other pastors. During the evening he received a phone call. We could tell that he was receiving troubling news, and later he told us that one of the pastors he oversees ...
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Jeffrey Arthurs, Ph.D., is the Professor of Preaching and Communication & Chair, Division of Practical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.