What we mean when we say we live in a fallen world is that it is a world that disappoints. We mean a world that doesn’t always live up to our expectations. It is a world in which even our access to God is mediated. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror …” (1 Corinthians 13:12).” Though we long to know Him as He is, He appears to us as though “in a dense cloud” (Exodus 19:9). What the mystics called “the cloud of unknowing.” He is the hidden God.
The truth is that our understanding too is cloudy. We don’t hear well. We don’t see well. But that does not change our desire to re-make this fallen world. We believe that sometime in the past this world was better. We believe that sometime in the future things will be different. We hope things will be different, and by faith we expect to see it so.
In a fallen world 3-year-old boys are diagnosed with Leukemia. The sense of powerlessness pervades. No one who hears such news thinks, “That’s good.”
We don’t receive such news as though all were well with the world.
No, for this and other such events we have a word—tragic. The story is not over. The One who knit this boy together can make Him well. My faith tells me this. The Maker of the Universe has only to will it.
And yet, it is a fallen world. It is a world in which the sweetness of life is tainted by the bitterness of sin. It is a world in which life is lived in the valley of the shadow of death. We are all born terminal in this fallen world.
We will ask questions such as “Why?” and actually expect answers. I struggle to understand how knowing that answer would bring peace. I can’t imagine that peace would roll over me if I could just hear the reasons behind these tragedies? I doubt that I would love God more if I only knew those things. I would probably be glad He had kept His silence for so long.
His ways are righteous and true. I confess that He is always working for the “good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). But we understand this by faith. We walk through the valley by faith. We either trust Him and walk, or we are filled with doubt and flee.
As with David in that valley of the shadow of death, our comfort is in the confession “thou art with me” (Psalm 23: ). What makes this fallen world livable is that He is with us. This is the only thing that makes sense to me.
It seems that answers lead to more questions, which is why faith is a where the questions end. Faith is not without knowledge, not without inquiry, not without reasons, but faith is a where the questions end. At some point, perhaps different for all of us, we must reach the place of rest, that is, faith and trust. There is no other way to walk through the valley.
September 24, 2011