2048Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

  • Everything happens for a reason
  • Every time God closes a door He opens a window
  • God never allows us to suffer any more than is absolutely necessary for our growth and eternal progress
  • God tailored our trials (or we chose them) to give us exactly what we needed for our eternal growth and progress

These phrases posit an efficient God, one who does not waste time or energy in His mission to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” God is a perfect being, so we imagine that He would be efficient.  Arguments against the existence of God usually centre around the inefficiencies of the universe. How could a perfect Being create a world full of needless suffering and death? Counter-arguments seek to prove that suffering and death are spiritual necessities that a perfect God crafted into an efficient universe, designed for our ultimate happiness. However this apologetic argument only goes so far. Some suffering provides what appears to be helpful growth opportunity. But much suffering is wasted on innocent children and animals and others with no capacity for self-transformation. Inefficiencies are at the root of the homosexual issues in the church today. Elder Packer’s famous question, “Why would God do such a thing?” sums up the paradox. If God created homosexuality, how does that fit into a Plan of Salvation which focuses on traditional families as the keystone of eternal happiness? That would be terribly inefficient.

how-to-serve-godThe phrase “everything happens for a reason” presupposes that God works according to our mortal understanding of efficiency. When we have a setback, we feel a powerful urge to find a “reason” for it. It must not be a true setback, but something that will be for our greater good, leading to a growth experience we really needed. We desperate need everything in life to be “fair.”  But maybe a setback is sometimes just a setback. Maybe an accident is just an accident. Maybe a detour us just a detour. Maybe life is not fair. Maybe eternity is not fair either.

God is playing a long game. Our notions of efficiency are tied to our mortal timescale and God exists in an infinite space. The sun wastes almost all its light and energy in the void of deep space. But God has an infinite number of suns, and each of those suns have enough energy to last billions of years. Scriptures that speak of God’s abundance (“my cup overfloweth”) suggests that God may not be so interested in making things efficient from our perspective. For God, there is always “enough and to spare.” His reward for righteousness, “all that the Father hath,” is so over-the-top generous, that it would more than make up for inefficiencies experienced in this life. The reward He gives the labourers in his vineyard is the same for everyone, regardless of how long they have worked, and that reward is infinite.

Consider the following equations:

1 +  = 

1,000 +  = 

-1,000 +  = 

Infinity is the great equaliser, not by virtue of balancing accounts and making things fair, but by sweeping up everything in a great orgy of abundance. In the expanse of eternity, sizes and measurements are meaningless. In God’s infinite eye, a mile is no bigger than an inch, a pebble is no smaller than a planet and there is a universe in a grain of sand. Each of these things is only greater or smaller than the other when cast against each other in an arbitrary framework. But when the framework is infinite, size has no meaning. Even a lifetime of suffering will be totally lost in the swirling expanse of infinite bliss.

Of course this abstract knowledge is of little comfort to those trapped in cycles of pain, loss and waste here in mortality. I remember something Val Jean sings before his conversion in Les Miserables after being released after 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread:

Les-Mis-Hugh-Jackman-candlesticksNever forget the years, the waste.

Nor forgive them

For what they’ve done.

They are the guilty – everyone.

The day begins…

And now lets see

What this new world

Will do for me!

Val Jean, anxious to recover a bit of his loss from the universe, goes out immediately and robs a priest of his silver. But when the priest lets him have the silver and even gives him more, Val Jean is given a more abundant vision of what the universe is all about. And this vision transforms his life.

This new vision doesn’t teach Val Jean what important lessons he learned in is 19 years in prison, or how this experience was for his good. This new vision is not about efficiency, but about infinite grace. Coming to know God is not about checking boxes, making progress, or seeking justice. It is about letting go of the wasted years, letting waste be waste, and partaking daily of the manna God sends from heaven as it comes, when it comes, if it comes, and praising God for it.

Questions:

  • Is God efficient? Does everything happen for a reason?
  • Do trials always have a purpose?
  • Is God fair, or will He simply use the infinite expanse of eternity to sweep up everything in the end, making everything infinitely equal?