I T was an off-the-cuff decision. Three songs a month, for a year, 36 in total… “Hmmm, I wonder what Psalm 36 says…”

You can read it for yourself. Opening the Bible has repercussions for your life, I have discovered, and I encourage you to do it.

Basically it’s two parts: firstly how terrible the world is and how evil man is, and secondly how amazing God is. It was verse six that jumped off the page and messed with my head: “your justice is like the great deep”.

The Hebrew reference here is the ocean. The Message says “Your verdicts [are] oceanic”.

First question: if God’s justice is like the great deep, what does that actually mean?

Second question: Is it that he allows evil to occur, and still maintains justice over the horrendous crimes of men? If so, how?

For example, why does God permit the prolonged existence of corrupt governors who bring sufferings on nations? Where’s the justice for the sick, the hungry, the poor? It’s not an accusation… just an honest question.

I know this issue is not new. Lots of people have been asking for centuries: “how can a loving God permit suffering in the world?”

Before you shout the answer, think about your words. I’ve heard many people over the years say things like: “We don’t need to understand how God works, we just need to trust him” and “It’s not God’s responsibility… man was given the freedom to choose and we botched it up”. True, but in my mind it doesn’t offer much solace to the grieving mother of a stillborn child, or the spouse of a dead soldier.

How is God’s justice like the great deep? And how can a man, a simple man, comprehend the whole vastness of the ocean? Show me a person who is able to memorize and recount every cubic metre of ocean, and I’ll show you perplexed.

Psalm36So then, how can normal people like you and I come to grips with a scripture that implies we’ll never really understand God’s justice?

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’ve spent the majority of my life in Christian circles. As a 13-year-old, I can remember getting into an argument with an older man about asking too many questions about the Bible. “That’s all we’ve got,” he said. “If you start unpicking it we have nothing left to base our faith on.”

That didn’t sit right with me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doubt. It’s a normal human condition, and it’s not all bad. I came across a quote recently in the film “Life of Pi”, which rings true for me:

Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.

I have found myself drawn to those who have deeper questions about their faith. I’m not talking about people who can answer any question before it’s even finished being asked. I’m talking about those who are on a journey of finding out more about Jesus, who have authentic stories about him in their own lives.

Faith should be living and active. And so, I find this question of God’s justice being like the great deep to be a pertinent part of my own faith.

In searching for something to hold on to, my dad pointed me towards something tangible. “We need to continue to get to know who this God is, the God behind the justice,” he said.

Sounds like a good place to start.

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