On the season six finale of House, a woman is trapped in a building and Dr. House is right there beside her while they try to get her out.
The situation is desperate. We learn a little bit about who she is, her husband waiting back home, her hopes and dreams. But there she is. Stuck. And unable to get out.
At one point, she turns to Dr. House and asks him to pray with her.
Now, anyone who is familiar with the show knows that Dr. House is not a man of faith. He thinks religion is superstitious nonsense that his patients should be rid of. He frequently butts heads with colleagues and those he is supposed to care for. God is the farthest thing from his mind.
So when House is asked to pray, his first response is a resolute, “no.” He follows up with the thought that he doesn’t believe in God. Which leads our stuck woman, Hanna, to reply back – “neither do I.” The two sit for a few moments in silence, presumably joining together in a moment of silent prayer to a God that neither is sure exists.
When the moment has finished, Hanna says that she used to think that if she was a good person, if she tried to do the right thing, that everything would be okay. But here she is, stuck underneath a building. How do these things happen?
It’s a question we all struggle with. Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there anything that we can do to avoid the perils of this world? And if God is so good, why is there so much pain in the world? Well, maybe those are three different questions. But at the root, it’s a question of theodicy. It’s a question about the power of God.
My simple answer to this question is that this is not yet the new creation. This world is fallen. And that is not only a statement about human sin, but about the totality of creation. Natural disasters, accidents, illness – all of these things are signs that the world is not as it should be.
The answer to this fallenness is that God has put into motion a plan to make it all new again. God has already begun to act in the saving work of the creation. Already, signs of the inbreaking of the Reign of God can be seen. The earth quakes in birth pangs… God is redeeming it all.
But it’s not done yet. It’s not whole yet. We are still living in a fallen, broken, messed up creation. And so in this world, even when we do everything right – that doesn’t mean we get a happy ending.