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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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Difficult Questions About My Simple Answers

In the past one week, I wrote a series of posts on this blog about an accident that I had met with recently, and the subsequent situation that I had found myself in. These posts were not intended to describe my aches and pains, but to give expression to some of my deepest feelings. During the time of my recovery I had the opportunity to re-examine my relationship with God and I had the clarity of thought to re-state it before my readers, especially some of them who may be in circumstances similar to mine.

My posts were well-received. They got many likes. My blog enlisted many new followers. And some people not just read my posts, but they asked me questions. One such person was Akshay Deoras, a budding meteorologist who works independently in India. Very different from a retired meteorologist like me. He lives in Nagpur and I am in Pune. But we are friends on the social media and in the real world. We like to share our different perspectives on life in general and meteorology in particular. Akshay said that my posts were informative, but he had some basic questions for me.

“Why did God allow you to fall if he now wants you to get up?” Akshay asked, “Any explanation in the Bible on this?”. “Is it to teach any lesson or make us aware of his presence?” he continued, “We see such things around us like accidents, financial losses, tragedies, etc. but then that person comes out of the pain and resumes a normal life. Why so?”

In my next couple of posts I intend to address to the best of my understanding the “Why So?” question. This question is not new. It has been posed time and again, and gets revived in one form or another like “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “What was God doing when the tsunami struck?” or “Where was God when I cried out to him?” or just “Why me?” The questions relate to two different types of situations, one in which only individuals are involved, and the other which may be termed as calamities or natural disasters which affect many people.

I plan to answer, or attempt to answer, in my own way, such difficult questions in my subsequent posts. Watch this space!

 

The Healing Touch

Exactly a month ago I met with a road accident in which I fractured my thigh bone. It required surgery and hospitalisation for a week. During my stay in the hospital, doctors, nurses, technicians and helpers had an open access to my body. They could touch me in places I would never have allowed anyone before. Not only just touch – they could cut, pierce, enter, expose, rub, press, any part of my body. Of course with the good intention of eliminating the basic cause of my suffering.

I had previously thought that doctors and healthcare workers had a healing touch that would relieve stress, calm nerves and ease tension. But what I got to experience in the hospital was far from it. Many hospitals claim to provide the healing touch and some even flaunt it as a brand name. Healing Touch is the name of a therapy that uses gentle hand techniques to help re-pattern the patient’s energy field. I have no knowledge or expertise to comment on them.

But what I do know is the healing touch of Jesus that I have experienced myself and read about in the Bible. Jesus’ healing touch is full of compassion and tenderness. It is a gesture that shows his empathy, and offers comfort. Jesus’ healing touch is usually accompanied by powerful words. He is not judgmental. He does not point an accusing finger at people. He is forgiving. He gives peace.

Many people used to come to Jesus from far and wide with the hope of just being able to touch him and the faith that his touch would heal them. There are many instances recorded in the Bible of Jesus’ healing touch. The most touching story is that of Jesus’ interaction with a man having leprosy who in those days would have been treated as an untouchable and an outcast and kept at a distance. (Mark 1:40-41) One such man came to Jesus, fell on his knees and begged Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” What did Jesus do? He responded in a manner no one else would have. He touched the man disfigured and maimed by leprosy, held him close and said, “Of course, I am willing. Be clean!” And at once, the leprosy left the man and he was cleansed.

Then there is the story of two blind men. (Matthew 20:29-34) Jesus was walking from one town to another and a large crowd was following him. There were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, have mercy on us!” Jesus did not ignore them, but he stopped by to enquire. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

That was two thousand years ago. But even today, Jesus does not ignore my cry. He stops by to ask what I want. He talks with me, walks with me, comforts me, touches me where it hurts me the most. That is the healing touch of my Saviour. It is magical, mysterious and miraculous.

Made Whole

A whole number or integer has a special significance in mathematics. It is a number that is complete in itself and has no fraction. Integrity, a word derived from integer, is a characteristic of a person who is whole or undivided within himself. A person of integrity has extremely high ethical or moral standards and he does not have to battle in his mind with opposing forces.

The word whole is used in the Bible very often. It is associated with many different things and its meaning is very inclusive. For example, “the whole earth will be filled with God’s glory” (Psalm 72:19), which implies literally the whole earth with no part of it left out. “O Lord, I will praise you with my whole heart” (Psalm 9:1) means praising him with my total concentration, not allowing anything to distract me.

King Solomon, famous for his wisdom and riches, ended his book Ecclesiastes which is included in the Bible, as follows: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

In modern legal parlance, the term “make whole” is used as a clause in documents like a bond. It enables the debtor to clear his debt in advance of the stipulated date, like by paying several of his EMIs in one go.

But Jesus used the term “made whole” in quite a different manner. Jesus while preaching the kingdom of God, often encountered people who were in deep trouble, and he would “make them whole”. Many people came to him pinning all hope on him, expecting an instant relief from their suffering just by his healing touch. To them he would say, “Your faith has made you whole.” (Matthew 9:22)

Being made whole by Jesus is much more than getting cured from a disease, like what present day doctors can do so well. Jesus heals not only your body, but comforts your troubled mind, mends your broken heart, restores your soul, energises your spirit. He adds what is missing in your life and reshapes your life into what it should really be.

Flesh and Bone

If one were to go by the Biblical story of creation, the first orthopaedic surgery ever performed was by God himself. He anaesthetised Adam, the first man, whom he had created from the dust of the ground, removed a rib from his body, and stitched up the flesh. Out of Adam’s rib, God created Eve, the first woman. When Adam saw Eve, he exclaimed, “This is the bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh!” (Genesis 2:7,21-23)

The Bible has often dealt with flesh and bone as separate entities within the body. The flesh is the weaker, carnal part, while bones are stronger and give stability to the body. The flesh is easily corrupted, but bones last long. Bones discovered during archaeological excavations can throw light on the history of past ages, and the course of biological evolution.

The 200-odd bones of the human body protect the various organs, produce red and white blood cells, store minerals, provide support for the body, and enable its movements. The thigh bone named the femur runs from the hip joint to the knee joint. It is the strongest as well as the longest bone in the human body.

Recently, in a freak road accident, I fractured my femur. I fell on the road and was unable to get up or move. I had to undergo surgery to repair the fracture and I am on my road to recovery. While trying to find solace in God’s word during this time of testing, I found that the word bone is used figuratively in many places in the Bible to express different meanings. Like the term shaking of the bones indicates trembling with fear (Job 4:14) while burning of the bones is an expression of grief (Job 30:30) or depression (Psalms 102:3, Lamentations 1:13). Bones are commonly referred to in many different psalms, and described as being troubled, out of joint, consumed, wasted away or waxed old. (Psalms 6:2, 22:14, 31:10, 32:3, 51:8)

In the course of my treatment that would repair my damaged femur, I had all those feelings. I was scared, troubled, helpless, shaken, and unstable. But what was amazing to me was that my God already knew how I felt, and he was there to alleviate my suffering. And this is the reassurance he had already given: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” (Psalm 34:19-20)

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he had said to them, “Look at me, I am living, see that I am made of flesh and bone!” (Luke 24:39)

I know that my Redeemer lives. (Job 19:25) He knows how I feel. He shares my pain. He is forever there to comfort me.