On Faith: Finding some good in our weedy existence
November 17, 2023
Why do bad things happen to good people?
A couple of years ago, Andrea and I started a vegetable garden. Since then, we've learned at least one thing: we're pretty lousy gardeners. Or, at least, I am.
I can tell I am a lousy gardener because, when I talk to serious gardeners, I usually have no clue what they're talking about.
This is especially true when it comes to weeding. No matter what we plant, by the time things start growing I can't tell a bean or tomato plant from any other plant that might show up, so I let them all grow together and hope for the best.
This was especially true this summer. Last year our garden bed had more cherry tomatoes than we could keep up with, so some were left hiding until they were ready for the compost. When it was all said and done, this year there were little tomato sprouts basically everywhere - where we planted them, and where they planted themselves.
This didn't actually make for a great year for tomatoes, but it did make us extra cautious in pulling anything out of the ground. Could this little unidentified sprout be a rogue plant that might offer something tasty if we let it go? Often, the answer turned out to be "no," but sometimes that little sprout offered an addition to supper or a flower to appreciate.
I sometimes get the feeling that the world we live in, in some respects, is a bit like our garden bed: chaotic, tangled, and more than a bit messy. There's plenty of good things, and plenty of unhelpful things, but it's not always clear which is which.
(Credit where it's due: Jesus was telling stories about farming, gardening, and weeds way back 2000 years ago. Check Matthew 13 if you want to see what I'm talking about.)
Back to our original question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does evil exist in a world that should be good? Why do some kids get cancer while others get a bike? Why do some people's homes get destroyed while others stay safe and warm?
We will surely never stop wondering, but perhaps Jesus's story from 2,000 years ago might shed some light on the subject: there's no way we can get rid of all the weeds in our world without pulling out the good stuff along with it.
So, what can we do?
The good news is that we're not helpless. Our world may seem tangled, chaotic, and confusing, but we can plant some good.
This Thanksgiving, I hope you'll find a way to plant some good - whether it's at the food bank, your dinner table, or wherever else you find yourself. You never know what might grow out of it.
Pastor Seth Wynands has served Bethesda Lutheran Church and River's Edge Presbyterian Church in Carlton since 2021. He lives in Carlton with his wife, Andrea (who's actually a pretty decent gardener).