When things go wrong in this life we ask, almost rhetorically, ‘Where is God?’. We think He may be taking a break or something! We think God should be on alert all the time to take care of anything that goes wrong: a growing tornado, an escaped convict, child abuse going on. We believe in the ‘God of the Zap!’: God should loose His thunderbolt and not allow things or people to hurt anyone. So, let’s you decide to take something home from the office, the God of the Zap should cause your hand to be paralyzed so that you don’t reach out and take the thing. Is that the kind of God that we believe in, the God that we hope is there?
God has too much respect for us to force us like puppets to do what He wants us to.
The gift of free will that the Lord has given to us is a precious gift. But there is another side to it: it also carries a great deal of responsibility. We have to do the right thing, not because we have to but because we want to. Thus, when we do wrong, we have no one to blame but ourselves. And if we blindly continue to do wrong, then God will allow us to feel the consequences of our actions.
Parents will tell us that this is an essential way to teach children. Once they taste the consequences of their decisions (whether by the real-life results of their choices or by the imposed punishment meted out by their parents), then they can learn that the good and the right way is always preferably in the long run.
There are still many people who want a different kind of God: a God Who immediately takes the situation that is badly handled by a human being (a creature) and does it the right way. That would take a lot of accidents and evil out of this world by an “interrupting” God. But there are real problems with this.
If we are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore are called upon to help save, recreate, finish and redeem creation, an Interrupting God would take that dignity away from the human collaborator. Creativity, as we know, requires a lot of learning and therefore a lot of mistakes by the artist in question. Much of the great artists and creators of history are often embarrassed when someone shows them a work that they created as a young artist when they were still learning. It takes a lot of mistakes to make a great artist!
Thus, that kind of god does not love us but rather mistrusts us and may even not want us to ‘get in the way’ of his creation!
A God of trust is a God who takes risks with us. Of course, we will never be 100% successful; but even our failures are successes in God’s design. Trust means letting go of results so that the child is able to have a free hand. But then the child cannot blame the parent for their own mistakes but must constantly get up and try again. This builds character and fortitude.
Now, it would be a mistaken impression that God just calmly lets disasters occur in the creative exploits of His children. No, He is always available to collaborate with His child to guide, teach and encourage as long as the child prayerfully includes Him in the creation of the work. Prayer is an invitation to God that we request His cooperation in the work that we have begun. Then, it is wholly right and just that we let God be God and we work with His initiative in the work He has inspired us to accomplish.
I have often used this comparison to show this collaboration: Imagine that you are painting a picture which is what your life is. God is watching in the background. You are painting a beautiful landscape (symbol of how you want your life to go). Suddenly something happens negatively, dropping brown paint into the middle of the painting. You despair because the painting of your life is ruined. You seek help from God. At your word of entreaty, God looks at the landscape with the brown splotch in the middle of it and says ‘Hold on, watch’ and he begins to form the blotch into a beautiful bridge over the stream you placed at the center. The Divine Creativity took from your mistake (sin?) and, through your repentance and trust in Him, created something new that enhances your own creativity. God has made a better picture using the mistake as a new element in the design.
This is how God works with our own creativity as a collaborator Who respects our will in fashioning a new and more beautiful life for His beloved: our own selves.
In a word, He respects us by respecting our freedom.
But with freedom comes responsibility. It is easier to be a puppet than a creator in the image and likeness of God!