We find it difficult and sometimes impossible to understand the ways of God in the affairs of humanity. There is so much evil in the world that seems to go for so long unpunished. We cry out for an understanding that does not come when we go through the almost endless wards of our hospitals and see great numbers of people there. Many of them are those with whom we have worked, helpless now or enduring great pain. Our souls then cry out for some explanation of why God lets these things happen. I, for one, am impatient with the fact that evil is so often in the saddle. I preached to a Jewish congregation during its Friday evening service not long ago. As we went through the ancient, ennobling pageantry of Israel’s faith, I thought of their long years of sorrow and slavery. The mind ran to that unspeakably horrible time when a supposedly civilized people suddenly fell back mysteriously and incredibly to a state worse than primitivism and six million Jews were destroyed in Germany. How could this happen in the same world where there is a God? I confess that I do not follow clearly the reason why God allows great numbers of people to be exploited and preyed upon. What have they done that they should go on generation after generation suffering inequities? Their children getting less education, their job status the poorest and most insecure. One cries like the martyrs beneath the altar, “O Lord, how long?”
Sometimes a deeper despair rises like a foggy mist in our swampland of bewilderment and hurt. We wonder if there is a God anywhere. Looking at the sorrow, the pain, the evil, the exploitation, we are sometimes tempted to take the position of a young man in one of Hugh Walpole’s novels who says, “You know, you know there can’t be a God, Vanessa. In your heart, you must know it. You are a wise woman, you read and think. Well, then, ask yourself, how can there be a God and life be as it is? If there is one, he ought to be ashamed of himself. That’s all I can say.” And sometimes, we feel like that. How long before liberty’s morning will fully come? How long before the brotherhood of man will be a living truth? How long before truth will stand conqueror over prostrate lie? How far the Promised Land?
Yes, darkness and clouds are around about him. But the psalmist does not stop there. Midst the darkness there is some light. “Clouds and darkness around about thee,” but he goes on, “righteousness and judgment are the habitations of thy throne.” Hold on now, here is something new. Justice and righteousness dwell around God’s throne. The veil of the sanctuary half lifts. The clouds are rolled back now and then. And in the swift rush of events, we can see righteousness and justice sitting as if at home around God’s throne. That’s a figure of speech to give you pause.