Give Thanks to the Lord, For He is Good

“Cleansing of the Ten Lepers” in the Codex Aureus Epternacensis (c. 1035-1040)
“Cleansing of the Ten Lepers” in the Codex Aureus Epternacensis (c. 1035-1040) (photo: Public Domain)

I received my first “hate tweet” today.

It read:

Let me understand. God is good for giving U a coffee break while letting people starve and get shot in the streets. #Demented

I’m assuming this was in response to a tweet I sent a while back about being grateful for a coffee break in the middle of a really tough day.

I do that every so often – send out social media messages in gratitude for the simple things in life that bring me joy, like a lovely sunset, fresh tomatoes just-picked from the garden, a stroll along the lakeshore. Or a steaming cup of delicious coffee when my mind has gone foggy and my energy has ebbed. I end those messages with the hashtag #GodisGood.

Apparently, according to my tweeting friend, I’m not supposed to do that. It’s demented.

Is it wrong to be thankful for the everyday things – or even the not everyday things – when there are bad things happening in the world?

True enough. There are people starving and getting shot in the streets. And that is indeed tragic. But what the tweeter, and many, many others misunderstand is that God has given all human beings the gift of free will. It’s our free will that makes us responsible for our own actions – or non-actions, as the case may be.

We choose to deprive and shoot people. God doesn’t.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it beautifully:

God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him." Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. (CCC 1730)

It continues:

Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.

The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin." (CCC 1731-1733)

I can understand the tweeter’s frustration. Recently, my hometown, Milwaukee, erupted in violence over a police shooting of an armed suspect with a criminal record. The unrest, looting, and burning of property shook the city. My city. And it made me angry as well.

But, I wasn’t angry at God. Rather, I was angry at the people refusing to follow his commandments.

It doesn’t make sense to say that God can’t be good because someone – or hundreds of someones – chose to do evil things. And it doesn’t make sense to say that we shouldn’t appreciate the good things in life because bad things exist.

Taking in the news reports about the troubles in the world can be alarming, even depressing. It’s definitely cause for concern and certainly a call to ardent prayer, holy stewardship, and peaceful activism. At the same time, we can’t lose sight of, or appreciation for, the wonderful happenings of this world and the little gifts of God that are all around us.

And so it’s okay to give thanks for a coffee break while there’s trouble in the streets.

You see, #GodisGood.