Destiny, Chance and Will

(This is in continuation of my previous post Difficult Questions About My Simple Answers.)

Many religions very easily connect your present with your past. If you are presently in a pitiable condition, it could be the result of your bad actions in your previous birth. Or your current prosperity may be because of your good deeds in your past life. This law of karma is simple and convenient and needs no explanation. Because you cannot really recall any of your past karma. So just attribute everything to destiny, fate, niyati, naseeb, or whatever you would like to call it. Or trace the good and bad seasons of your life to the configuration of planets, the time of your birth, or the shape and length of lines on your palms. But most religions or beliefs do not connect your present state with your current actions, and they do not hold you responsible. Therefore, there is hardly anything you can do to change your destiny. Like that golden oldie of Doris Day, “Whatever will be, will be, que sera sera!”

So one answer to the question as to why I had a fall on the road and I broke my leg, is that I was destined to fall.

Then there is the science of medicine that tells you that as you grow older, your reflexes slow down, your bones get brittle, you become less stable, and you are likely to keep falling. There is also statistics, that can assign a probability of occurrence to every event on earth. If your age is more than sixty, if you cross the road several times a day, if you live in a city where traffic rules are often flouted or where young bikers are reckless, then the chance that you get hit on the road can be computed. It will never be zero. So statistically speaking, you are bound to fall, sooner or later.

So another explanation for my fall was that it was statistically imminent and it was just a matter of chance.

Thus far, God has not come into this discussion. Now comes the problem. I am a Christian – by birth, upbringing, faith and practice. I believe in a God who can do anything, who knows everything, who loves his children as a father would, who understands their needs and answers their prayers. So when things go wrong in my life, it is natural for me to ask my God why he did not take sufficient care of me as much as he should have.

Of course, God loves me. He takes care of me. And he has a plan for my life. He has said in the Bible, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) But even if he would like me to go by his plan, he does not thrust his plan on me. He is willing to show me his way, but he does not insist that I go by it. Because I am a free man, not his slave or a robot controlled by him. So if I am lost and my own plans go haywire, I have no right to blame him.

In the background of the “God is love” concept of the Bible, a question often asked is how he can allow suffering in this world, and particularly how he can allow good people to suffer. Here I would like to recall that Jesus had asked his disciples to pray in a certain manner, which has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer begins as: “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”

Two points are inherent in the Lord’s Prayer. One, that we must pray for the kingdom of God to come. Obviously, because the kingdom of God is yet to be fully established on earth. Till that happens, the world will continue to remain imperfect. Two, we have to pray that God’s will be done on earth. Obviously, because at the present time, God’s will is being disregarded and even opposed on earth. And who is coming in the way of his plans? Man himself, as he continues to exercise his own free will for his own purposes, to serve his own interests.

So if a biker decides, in exercise of his own sweet will, to be reckless on the road, and he hits me, I will fall, regardless of God’s plans and promises of my welfare. Again, God is not to be held responsible for my fall. But what was God doing at that time? He was present there. He didn’t leave me or forsake me. In fact I am certain that had he not been there, I would have been run over by the vehicle. I could then have died, or had permanent brain damage, or suffered multiple injuries. Nothing of this severity happened to me. And what did God do afterwards? He remained with me and helped me to stand up again and walk. God was not testing me. On the contrary, he was making me bask in his love and amazing grace. This is the experiential aspect of the Christian faith. As David writes in his psalm, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who trusts in him.” (Psalm 34:8) And what about those who hindered God’s plans for me and followed their own? They will also stand, but before God, on the day of his judgement.

In the fulness of time, God’s kingdom will be truly established on earth. In fact, there will be a totally new earth. (Revelation 21:1-4) Then there will be no more pain, no suffering, no grief, no tears, and no more death. That would be the new world that God will create for his children to live for all time to come.

See also:

God’s Role in Natural Disasters (1)

God’s Role in Natural Disasters (2)

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