Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Kind of God Allows THIS?!?

 I don’t have a TV right now.

But all it takes is a scroll through my Facebook feed to see startling pictures and hear crushing stories of the devastation Hurricane Sandy left in her wake last night. I just Googled the news headlines, which currently cite 39 known fatalities from this monster storm.

So far.

I can’t wrap my brain around the reality of 39 people being fine one minute… then washed out to sea and killed the next by some freak storm.

It’s unfathomable.

No, it’s more than that. It’s downright unconscionable.

An “act of God,” the insurance agents call it.

Wait…God did this? The “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” God?

Okay. Let’s ask the question we’re all thinking but are sometimes ashamed to admit.

We asked it after 9/11. We asked it after Hurricane Katrina. We ask it whenever we turn on the news these days. (On the news website I read today, I was sickened by headline after headline of murder, horror, pain, and loss.)

We ask this question when our spouse betrays us. Or when a friend calls us with heartbreaking news. Or when the doctor gives us the diagnosis. Or when we watch the coffin of a loved one lowered into the ground.

[[Before I go on: let me gently say something to any Christians reading this who may claim that you’ve never doubted God’s sovereignty in the face of evil. As one pastor well said, the only Christians who don’t ever doubt are the ones who don’t really think. Author Mark Buchanan agrees: “The depth of our doubt is roughly proportional to the depth of our faith. Those with strong faith have equally strong doubts. That principle bears out in the other direction as well: People with a trivial and shallow faith usually have trivial and shallow doubts.” So trust me, if you haven't asked this question yet, someday you will.]]

But for those of us who have been shattered by pain… who know Anguish on a first-name basis…who simply cannot hide in steepled buildings or Christian conferences and pretend that suffering doesn’t exist, let’s come right out and say the question that’s haunting us:


What kind of God allows THIS?!?


What kind of God allows a pastor to walk out on his church, his family, and his faith?

What kind of God allows spouses to be abused? Children to be bullied? Neglected? Molested?

What kind of God allows people to be killed in freak accidents? By drunk drivers? By murderers?

What kind of God allows infertility? Miscarriage? Stillbirth? SIDS?

What kind of God allows rape? Cancer? AIDS? Poverty? Terrorism? War?


The questions are endless. Insert yours here:

What kind of God allows ____________________________?

Eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume asked the question this way: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

That’s a good question.

Now, I could go one of two ways with this blog post.

One option is that I could vehemently and eloquently denounce Hume’s trilemma by filling page after page with myriad Scripture verses and biblical proofs of God’s sovereignty. I could pull a few of the dozens of apologetics books off my library shelves and meticulously articulate the logical and philosophical rationales for God’s omnipotence and His overarching plan for the universe.

Twenty years ago, I would have done exactly that. Because it’s a billion times easier to cite Scripture verses than it is to wrestle with reality.

But I simply can’t do that anymore.

Because logic doesn’t mend the broken places.

Philosophy won’t bring back our loved ones.

And all the books in the world can’t turn back the clock and undo the suffering around us.

So what’s the other option I have for this blog post?

I'll skip over all the “God works all things together for good” answers (even though they’re true), and just get to the core of the matter:

God is always good.

But life sometimes sucks.

(Sorry, Mom, if you're reading this.)

I’ve been a Christian for 32 years. I’ve led Bible studies for decades. I have a seminary degree and twenty years’ experience in editing Christian books. I’ve spent my life immersed in the Word of God.

And while I could quote Bible passages, articulate theology, and write endless papers on this topic, the truth is, I don’t really know why God allows suffering. And this side of eternity, I'll never know. Because as my college roommate used to say, "If God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn't be big enough to be God."

After years of walking with Christ though good times and grief-stricken times, I can only say this for sure:

Jesus loves me. This I know.

I know that might seem like a cop-out for those of you who are hoping for a different answer to the question, “How could a good God allow suffering?” But it’s the only answer I have.
If you want a comprehensive answer replete with philosophy and logic, you can find those in any bookstore. I have a dozen or more tomes to recommend.
But if you boil down all those volumes of theology and apologetics and philosophy, you’d come up with the same answer.

No matter what the circumstances…
When your mind is swirling with doubts and your heart is shattered with pain...
You can hold on to this simple truth for dear life:

 Jesus loves you.

That you can KNOW.