I hear this all the time. All too often, though, I can’t help but think “Really? God has a plan? You could’ve fooled me.” Most recently, that thought came to mind as news reports began to come in about Typhoon Haiyan. Early projections put the death toll in the Philippines alone as high as 10,000. 10,000 people dead? That’s staggering. My friend Roland Russoli said of this number
” Ten thousand is what you might pay for an automobile, or the down payment on a house, but people killed……..I cannot fathom the number. Ten thousand births, thousands of marriages, thousands of friendships, millions of words spoken in love and hate and everything in between. I wonder if their names will ever be listed someplace or if we will ever hear them spoken out loud. Hundreds of years of histories gone in an instant………how incredibly sad…… how incredibly fragile life can be.
A couple of days ago, Philippine President Benigno Aquino revised that projection down to around 2500 (it’s already exceeded that). While it’s always a good thing when the number of possible dead is reduced, 2500 is hardly more manageable than 10,000. A lot of religious people claim that God is omniscient, that God is in control, that God has a plan. Disasters like this can make you wonder what the hell kind of God they’re talking about. Any deity that allows that many people to die in one fell swoop when they have to power to prevent it seems cruel and callous; and, in the view of many, unworthy of their time and worship. Whatever else I might think, events like this make me wonder if God is in control and really does have a plan. And, if that is the case, what kind of fucked-up plan would require suffering on this scale.
While I do believe that God does have a plan, I don’t think that God is in control; at least not in the conventional sense. I think that if God exerts any control on this world, it is through the influence and example of people like Jesus, Gandhi and Mother Teresa who dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others. As for the plan, I like the way Hugh Hollowell, puts it: “God has a plan, that plan is us”.
So,we’re God’s plan? To what end? What plan could God possibly have in mind that would involve such a miserable, selfish bunch as humanity? I believe it is one that seeks to redeem each and every one of us through the power of love. By loving God, our neighbor and ourselves, we can make this world a place where no one has to go hungry, live in poverty, suffer oppression and discrimination or any of the other terrible things that people deal with everyday. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet and events like Typhoon Haiyan remind us that we still have a lot of work to do.