I am a child of the ’60s. I grew up listening to all the music of the period. One of my favorite groups was Creedence Clearwater Revival. One of their best songs, “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” carries a plaintive question of the ages. Here is the first stanza:
Long as I remember
The rain been comin’ down.
Clouds of myst’ry pourin’
Confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages
Tryin’ to find the sun;
And I wonder, still I wonder
Who’ll stop the rain?
In this song “rain” is a metaphor for the problems and suffering of humanity through the ages. A mournful voice asks, “Who will end the problems we see around us on this planet?”
It’s a good question, one that deserves an answer.
I remember reading an article after the 9/11 terrorist attack. It had rained in New York a few days afterwards, bringing gloom and adding to the labor of those attempting to rescue any survivors from the rubble of the World Trade Center.
The writer, like everyone, was grappling with the reality of the attack and was saying to God, “If you could not have stopped the terrorists, why can’t you at least stop the rain?” He looked to the skies and wondered why the rain had to add to the difficulty of the suffering.
“Nature’s awful lottery”
We have in the South Asian tsunami disaster a foretaste of greater disasters prophesied in your Bible to come on this world. The number of dead—over 260,000 by the latest count—is horrible, beyond our ability to comprehend.
We naturally ask the questions: “Why? What does it mean? Why does God allow such suffering?” In reality, this is a great anguished cry of, “God, if you exist, why don’t You do something?”
We are not in control of our environment. We find ourselves at the whim of such catastrophes. Other, man-made disasters—such as terrorist attacks, war and sometimes famine and disease—come because man has freedom of choice, and with that come the consequences of wrong decisions made at every level of mankind.
New York Times columnist David Brooks gave voice to the many who try to make sense of large disasters. In a Jan. 1 piece he wrote of the Asian tsunami (and, really, other large natural disasters) as a “great abyss” into which we peer uneasily without understanding. “Nature’s awful lottery” is the term he used to explain the time and chance dimension of life. For many who grapple with the idea of God, this is another way to try to make sense of and explain the unexplainable.
A major lesson from the tsunami disaster is that we are not really the masters of our world.
Because the earth is a continuously changing and developing body, the earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and tornadoes that occur are more the natural order of the environment. It could be said that the “calm” periods between the occurrences of such natural phenomena are abnormal. Man learns to adapt and survive the natural disasters.
We live in a world with free will and choice. Man chose to live under the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and as a result, we live in a world of good and evil. Man has been trying to figure this out ever since.
Where is God in disasters? This disaster dominated the attention of the world for the first few weeks of the year. Sadly, it is not the only region of suffering people.
Africa, a whole continent, is in unending need from one end to the other. By some estimates 10,000 people die each month there from disease, starvation and war.
Nothing human beings could have done would have prevented the tsunami (though we’re learning that things could have been done in advance to reduce the loss of life). The cause of the many preventable disasters in Africa, however, has to be laid at the feet of leaders and failed institutions that cannot put together a visionary and just plan for governing the diverse peoples of this vast and beautiful land.
Like the comment cited earlier by the man who looked heavenward and asked God why He didn’t do something to stop the rain falling on rescue efforts in New York City, many see these things and ask, “Where is God?”
What did Jesus Christ do?
Let me try to answer that question by taking the oft-repeated question, “What would Jesus do?” Let’s take the phrase off the bracelets and look into Scripture for an answer.
We can easily sum up Jesus’ approach to the needs of the people in His time by looking at one example in the Gospels:
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’ ” (Matthew 9:35-38 Matthew 9:35-38 35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
37 Then said he to his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few;
38 Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.
American King James Version×).
When Christ walked the earth, He did three things to provide relief for the people’s physical problems. He taught them, healed them and fed them. He preached the message of the coming Kingdom of God, but He did not ignore their immediate need. He acted where He was and did what He could to alleviate suffering. He did what He could when He encountered human need.
But this passage indicates He saw that the basic cause of their suffering was wrong education. They did not have the right teachers teaching them necessary knowledge and understanding.
He worked from the understanding that He had a duty to help and serve, but that He could not change the course of the world as it was. He knew that life on this planet has to run its course “until the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21 Acts 3:21Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
American King James Version×).
This fact is evident from what Jesus said as He crested the Mount of Olives on His final trip to Jerusalem and saw the city spread out before Him in its splendor.
“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation’ ” (Luke 19:41-44 Luke 19:41-44 41 And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
42 Saying, If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong to your peace! but now they are hid from your eyes.
43 For the days shall come on you, that your enemies shall cast a trench about you, and compass you round, and keep you in on every side,
44 And shall lay you even with the ground, and your children within you; and they shall not leave in you one stone on another; because you knew not the time of your visitation.
American King James Version×).
Christ wept over Jerusalem and the coming tragedy that would befall the city several decades later at the hand of the vengeful Romans. Could He have stopped it? Yes, it is conceivable that He could have somehow prevented the tragedy. But He did not. History tells us this siege was terrible on the Jewish people. Thousands of captured Jewish men were executed. Thousands of women and children were sold into slavery.
Is God callous and uncaring?
Jesus would not stop that atrocity on His own people, the Jews. Since then the world has witnessed countless additional disasters among all nations and peoples. Christ has not prevented natural disasters, and more will occur in the future that He will not prevent.
The reality is that God will not “stop the rain” before a lot more falls. The sooner we come to grips with that reality, the sooner we can make the changes in our lives to deal with the aftermath.
God does not leave us in darkness without understanding and hope. Does this make God callous and uncaring, an out-of-touch Creator without compassion for His creation? No.
The example of Christ weeping over Jerusalem shows God’s deep feeling for the suffering of all peoples. But it also shows God is committed to letting human experience run its course.
This world is founded on the basis of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil described in Genesis. It is a world with all the natural beauty placed by God alongside the evil that is generated by the wrong choices of man.
It is a world where man can conceive inspiring art and music and good works while at the same time creating unimaginable horror and suffering. The recent 60th-anniversary commemoration of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz is a grim reminder of the depths to which mankind can descend.
Where can we find hope?
It seems there are so few contented people here on earth. For many, grief and sorrow are always their lot. How can the careworn find encouragement, understanding and hope? Can they grasp some measure of rest, refreshment and meaning for their life by understanding the truth of the gospel?
The apostle Paul shows they can. He wrote with this in mind in his letter to the Romans. Beginning in Romans 8:22 Romans 8:22For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
American King James Version×, Paul shows the natural world is in a state of tension waiting for the time when the full spiritual work of God will be made known. Even the elect of God suffer with all peoples, praying earnestly for the full Kingdom of God to be created on earth (verse 23).
This is God’s will and plan being brought together according to His timing. It is a hope that requires the patience of a lifetime. God will bring His plan to pass. All things work together in the kaleidoscope of God’s multifaceted plan, Paul tells us (verse 28).
He gives the assurance of God’s vigilant care overarching the dark abyss that sometimes erupts upon the landscape. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39 Romans 8:31-39 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.
34 Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
American King James Version×).
Who’ll stop the rain from falling on our world? Jesus Christ will, when He sets His hand to restore the loving and peaceable Kingdom to the earth. That’s what I remember when I listen to one of my favorite songs. WNP
Jesus Christ repeatedly promised He would return to earth. That was a vital component of His message, the gospel—good news—of the coming Kingdom of God. What’s the connection? excatly what is the Kingdom, and what does it mean for you? Request your free copy of the Gospel of the Kingdom today!