God Is Arbitrary, and That Is Terrifying [Questions That Haunt]

Lisa Mamula posed the challenge this week for Questions That Haunt Christianity. She asked,

I’m a Christian, but I have lately been struggling with a question: Do I believe God is Good, or do I believe God is just good to me? I see my life as having been blessed and guided by God into many good things (great husband, amazing kids, food to eat, etc.), but I struggle to reconcile all these gifts with the lives of those in extreme suffering and poverty. I’m not sure how to trust God with my everyday, (relatively) minor needs like relief for sick kids or financial problems. Why would I be rescued, when God didn’t rescue Holocaust mothers who watched their babies used as target practice? I believe in God. I believe he is Good. But I don’t know why I believe that.

Lots of you left many interesting and thought-provoking comments, and Lisa chimed in as well. It’s been a great discussion to watch.

At the core of your question, Lisa, is how arbitrary are God’s actions of beneficence (or tragedy)? This is a question I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately, for it sits at the heart of the book I’m now writing, Why Pray?

It seems that we have a choice: God is either arbitrary and therefore terrifying, or God is predictable and impotent. Here’s what I mean:

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When Has God NOT Answered Your Prayer?


The readers of this blog have been extremely helpful as I’ve worked through issues around prayer, in preparation for my next book, Why Pray? Thanks to those of you who answered Do You Pray? and for those who told me about a time when God Answered Your Prayer. (Those are still open, if you’d care to contribute.)

Now, I’m interested in hearing When God Did Not Answer Your Prayer? And also, what you did with God’s non-response? That is, how did you reconcile your understanding of God with God’s silence in the face of your request?

Has God Answered Your Prayer?

Hundreds of readers weighed in on my question, Do You Pray? For that, I am very thankful.

As I continue to work on my book, Why Pray?, I’m wondering if God has answered a specific prayer of yours.

If God has, I’d love to hear the story. If you leave it in the comments of this blog, it’ll be public. If you share it in the embedded form here, it’ll be between you and me.

Do You Pray?

I’m at the early stages of a book called, Why Pray? Why Some People Pray, Others Don’t, and What God Has To Do with It, and I could use your help. I don’t want this book to just be about why I do (or don’t) pray. (You’ll have to read the book to find out if I do or don’t pray.)

I’m happy if you’d like to write in the comment section about why you do or don’t pray, but I also want to give a confidential place for you to answer that question. There are pastors who read this blog and don’t pray — they’d probably rather not publish their doubts for all to see.

So, here’s a form where you can contribute your thoughts to my writing. And, in advance, thanks.