News Archives

New ‘God, Why?’ study resource addresses tough questions

 


New ‘God, Why?’ study resource addresses tough questions

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

�God, Why?� is a study resource that explores God�s presence following natural disasters.
Feb. 11, 2005

By Linda Green*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — When people experience tragedy or loss, the questions often asked are: Why did God allow it to happen? Why did it happen to me? Where was God?

Those questions swirl in the aftermath of any catastrophe such as the Dec. 26 tsunami that struck Asia and Africa.

United Methodist Communications has produced a new resource to help individuals, study groups and congregations address those hard questions and understand how God is present in difficult times. The resource, "God, Why? Teachings from the Tsunamis," offers insights from bishops, theologians, pastors and others in a two-session, small-group study format.

The communications agency, in cooperation with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, developed the resource as a DVD/CD package that includes video, a study guide, worship materials and other resources. It is available for pre-purchase at www.umc.org, the denomination’s official Web site.

The resource will give people practical, spiritual answers to questions about God’s activity when disasters occur, says the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive at United Methodist Communications.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Men in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, pick through the ruins of a supermarket after the earthquake and tsunami.
Through the video, the church is making a prophetic statement, Hollon says. "At a time of great loss and great instability, I believe it’s very important for the church to be heard. The church speaks a word of hope. It helps to say that with God’s help, we will get through this trauma, and that is a very important word that we deliver to the people not only in the church but to people in the world."

In the video, Bishop Gregory Palmer of the Iowa Area notes that "there is danger in trying to lay claim to certain hard fixed answers, particularly in the face of tragedy." If any lesson can be learned from the tsunami and other tragedies, it is that humans live in a fragile world—and a world that is awesome, Palmer says.

"And so more than trying to fix an answer as to, ‘OK, why did this happen, God?’ I’ve tried to bow myself before the majesty of God and to say, I acknowledge and I honor and I humble myself before the reality of nature, and accept the fact that we don’t have all the answers and that maybe I’m not destined to know all of the answers specifically.

"But I’m not going to be immobilized from responding with compassion and grace simply because I don’t have the answers," the bishop says. "I know in the midst of loss and grief what I’m called to do and what other people of Christian faith and of good faith are called to do. And that is to enable the signs of life to burst forth."

The Rev. Randy Day, top executive at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, cites Jesus’ teachings as a guide for responding to people affected by the tsunami. "And so we’ll reach out in the sense of love and justice and try to touch as many lives as we can, and try not to be overwhelmed by numbers and by our own emotions."

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A hospital patient in Medan, Indonesia, tells how the tsunami destroyed his home in Banda Aceh.

The United Methodist Church, through its United Methodist Committee on Relief, will assist the survivors in culturally sensitive ways, Day says in the video. "We’re going to be there to help people rebuild their lives, to rebuild these local churches and then relate to these communities with a sense of vision, with a sense of hope."

Making sense of events such as the tsunami is "extremely challenging," says the Rev. Joon-Sik Park, associate professor at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. "I don’t think anyone has an answer or anyone knows the answer. No one could explain the presence of suffering and evil in God’s world. We all struggle to find the presence of God in all that."

Asking why God lets bad thing happen to good people is the "wrong question," says Bishop Judith Craig, bishop in residence and visiting professor of church leadership at Methodist Theological School in Ohio. "I don’t think the ‘why’ question is the question to ask. I prefer the ‘where’ question. Where is God in all of this?"

In the wake of the tsunami and other tragedies, "God’s all over the place," Craig says. "I think God’s in the tears of the parent that’s been separated from a child. God’s in the shout of joy of a child that finds a parent. God’s in the midst of the shattered messes of what were once homes. God’s in the framework of a new home that’s being built and helped by people who don’t even speak the same language."

The DVD/ CD resource contains:

  • Short video stories of hope amid tragedy.
  • A musical PowerPoint presentation of images from South Asia.
  • Eighty free-to-use images of the damage caused in Indonesia.
  • A collection of news feature stories for use in the local church.
  • Bulletin inserts to help raise awareness and funds for United Methodist relief efforts.
  • Graphics for church Web sites.
  • Worship resources.
  • A study guide.
  • A three-minute inspirational message (from the "be there" UMCOR project)
  • Seven-minute highlights of UMCOR’s work (from the "be there" UMCOR project).

The tsunami highlighted humanity’s vulnerability to the forces of nature, but that vulnerability can be unifying, Hollon says. "If we can respond to each other at a personal level in a human way, so we provide to each other a source of strength and a source of hope, then somehow we build a better community and we make the world a better place."

The Rev. Lilanthi Ward, a native of Sri Lanka and pastor of Anderson Hill United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, stresses the importance of Christians showing God’s love to those affected by the tsunami.

"In the worst of times, in the best of times, God’s promised never to leave us," she says. "And even though we may not feel God’s presence, that doesn’t mean that God’s not there."

For information about the project or to preorder copies of the $19.95 DVD and CD, call customer service at United Methodist Communications at (888) 346-3862 or visit the denomination’s Website at www.umc.org.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

First Name:*
Last Name:*
Email:*
ZIP/Postal Code:*
Question:*

*InfoServ ( about ) is a service of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW


Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add InfoServ@umcom.org to your list of approved senders.