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Why wouldn’t God wake a sleeping cat?

Rev. John Burns

October 24, 2019

I must confess that I don’t often know with any semblance of clarity what God does and does not do. Earlier this summer a family member ran over our cat. The cat was asleep under the car. The person driving couldn’t have known the cat was there. The incident was traumatic for the entire family as well as, I am sure, for the cat. Here’s my question, “Why wouldn’t God wake a sleeping cat?” All that cat needed was a nudge, the brush of an angel’s wing, some chirp or whistle or whisper and he would have scampered out of harm’s way. Instead he slept on and died. What would it have cost God to wake a sleeping cat?

The other day a St. Louis police officer was on TV pleading with her community to step forward with information concerning the shooting of a child . . . the eleventh child shot in her community since June 1. Why wouldn’t God protect these innocent children? Was there some purpose behind these horrid deaths? Or were their deaths due to random shots bouncing around in a world of chance? Or did evil win the day when these children were killed? And why can’t God get people to provide information so that the killers are stopped?

Many of my evangelical brothers and sisters say they believe President Trump was placed in office by God. Does God do that? Are all presidents put in office by God? What about lesser offices? Are all county employees put in office by God?

What about sporting events? Virtually all teams pray before starting a game. Does God guide the passes, make the pitchers throw left or right, center the ball in the net, or make the puck miss the goal? Or are games simply luck and skill?

Who controls the weather? We habitually pray for people to be preserved from forest fires, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, droughts, and floods. Does God throw a shield of protection over those for whom we pray? If so, does that mean the victims of such “natural disasters” received fewer prayers? Or is severe weather simply the result of random forces that combine in sometimes destructive ways?

What or who are we praying for in the aftermath of the recent shootings in Dayton and El Paso?  Are we praying that God will pass sane gun legislation or comfort the victims’ families or preserve our second amendment rights or heal all those with mental illness or destroy domestic terrorists? I’m sure there are some people who pray each of these prayers, but before this year is up, there will no doubt be another mass shooting. Does that mean God isn’t paying attention or that God does not get involved in stopping such things? And if God does not stop a hateful man from killing the parents of a baby simply because of the color of the parent’s skin, what will God do?

Recently, I saw a cardinal drop a stick bug or praying mantis (I couldn’t be sure which) about five feet in front of me. The cardinal swooped in on the insect and the insect reared back on his haunches, put both arms in the air like a ninja fighter and swatted the bird. The bird regrouped and came at the bug again and the same encounter ensued. After the third swoop, the bird just flew away. Why? The red bird was six times the size of the insect. Did God intervene to save the bug? Or did I simply witness the laws of nature in motion?

According to what I hear from other faithful disciples, God is working night and day. God is credited with healing a sick aunt, providing a job for an unemployed brother, and preserving the life of a friend through a devastating car wreck. God is also said to have punished a foreign dictator, blessed a local lottery winner, and helped a mother and her three children escape a burning house. I have no reason to argue about any of this, I just keep wondering, if God intervenes for so many, why wouldn’t God wake a sleeping cat?

Like I said, I’m not sure what God does and does not do. I trust Paul to be writing God’s honest truth when he says, “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) For now that seems enough for me. God is working through you and me to bring more justice, love, truth, compassion and peace into this world. I assume God does more than this, but inspiring the faithful to do the will of God is still enough to make this world a safer, healthier, fairer, more peaceful place for all God’s creation, including, possibly, a sleeping cat.

The Rev. John Burns is pastor of University Baptist Church, College Park, Md.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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