The Trouble and Delight of Omnipotence

I have long been confused by the doctrine of an omnipotent God. If God knows all, and if God, being merciful, will provide for his children, what contributions can we make? When we, in Faith, pray or wish that [insert person or problem] will be [insert blessed state or solution] are we really just hoping that our dialog aligns with God’s dialog?

“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.” 1 Ne. 9:6, The Book of Mormon

The Delight

Why is this on my mind lately? I read a brilliantly insightful novel by John Green named The Fault in Our Stars, from which I will be quoting for the remainder of this post. A very classic, satirical, piece of literature with a young adult vibe to it. It’s about, well, cancer. A friend of mine died of cancer in March of last year, and all this time I have been regularly disheartened by my conviction that he did not receive what he deserved. Simple slogans about heaven or a better life didn’t seem to provide justice for a life lost. “Easy comfort isn’t comforting”.

The pain we see in a cancer victim, and are concerned most with, is death, which is not to say that anyone is assuming the victim won’t eventually die as a consequence of life. We quantify the severity of death by measuring the amount of time between a “typical” death and a cancerous or unfortunate death. That number becomes the measure of the severity of the affliction. A six year old dying of cancer is then in a sadder situation than a fifty year old dying of that same cancer. Thinking this way suggests that God’s great calendar makes a lot of your Mondays much longer and never compensates you with additional holidays or longer weekends.

The verdict of justice is not easily found when you’re using the wrong equation to find it. The problem with the equation isn’t that we’re inaccurately quantifying the pain or loss associated with death, but that we’re quantifying the wrong side effect of death.

Assuming that God does know the end from the beginning, and measures each day with preciseness — what does it matter the way in which one dies or the time in which they die? Death is never convenient, and will by definition bring loss. Instead our concerns should be the quality in which each day is lived. For as the psalmist suggests, “this is the day the Lord has made” (Psalm 118:24).

“She had luekemia?” I asked. He nodded. […] “…at the end, we brought her to New York, where I was living, for a series of experimental tortures that increased the misery of her days without increasing the number of them.”

Making a measure in that way, I can happily examine my friend’s life and rejoice in the happiness of each day he lived. “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.” My previous views of God saw him as a taker of days, not an improver of the days given. And truly, in that regard, we can each contribute to His plan. We can each improve days and have Faith in the day that is given rather than the day that is taken. My recalculation of the fairness of life presents a much kinder God: an improver of days and a healer that I am delighted to assist.

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