A dear friend of mine emailed me with a tough question. Most have thought it. Few, if any, can be certain they know the exactitude of it all.
Why does God make the choices he does?
I prayed a bit on it. I felt heavy about it. For I know that the question comes from a place of hurt, and in that hurt we would like to make sense of the choices that God makes.
Where is God; why does God allow bad things to happen?
Most times I feel grateful that people ask me. Even when it comes with a challenge, it gives me a chance to explain why I think hope is ever present. Sometimes, though, I just feel sad for the hurts that are felt, that these burdens slow down our steady steps. I ache for them. I ache for me. I ache for our world. I ache for God who mourns with us.
So, I wrote this to my dear friend:
I can’t suggest I have the concrete answers for it all. Even with The Bible, there are some things I cannot make come clear. For me, I see God as omnipotent. I understand that brings with it a mystery as to why the horrible things happen. I not only respect your question, but can relate to it. I find a resolution that is partial, because it gives a broad view and not the specifics, but complete in its purpose for me. I believe that God never wants bad things to happen. However, He sometimes allows them because He can see a bigger meaning to it all than we could ever even remotely comprehend. I know that doesn’t necessarily feel good.
As parents, when do we step in and intercede and when do we allow the pain to come? There are times we dive head first in front of our child, literally, to prevent them the pain of a fall. There are other times we watch and allow stumblings because of the learning that comes. I know that a skinned knee does not compare in our minds with the horrible things that happen around the world. It is from our view, though, that it does not make sense. It’s from a logic that is solely human.
I continually remind myself that I do not have the ability to see or know as God does. In our humanness, we want to apply a sense of justice and order that makes sense. I think about Paul, in The Bible (considered a pretty accuarate historical record of individuals even when not fully believed). Paul was out murdering and persecuting Christians and living the “high life”. He then converts and commits himself to spread the news of Jesus. He is forgiven for all of the terrible things he has done? By God, yes. He then ends up in prison for being a Christian. We think about the paradox of the horrible criminal parading about. He’s then forgiven for ALL of that. Why would God forgive him for the atrocities? Why would God bless him with scriptural gifts, but have him go to prison? Perhaps it was so that much of his writing could come from that place of darkness, where he could reflect on what he had done?
For Paul, we may reconcile our confusion with that he had done terrible things earlier, so prison and a penance of writing and teaching are a gift to the world he attacked.
What about those who have not done wrong and yet suffer at the hands of others? What about the child born to abusive parents and tortured to death or one born to a life of starvation?
Does it mean that is allowed for a lesson to be learned or a greater good? I think yes. However, it is not from the way that we construct things that it all comes together. In it, God is there to offer comfort, especially when there seems no possible positive outcome that could be worth the loss.
While this is not a 2+2=4, the answer at the end is as absolute, the result of an equation we cannot fathom. An endlessly loving father.
Mother Theresa is admired by people of many different belief systems. Her works of charity and true compassion were a model of incredible love and respect for all. Mother Theresa wrote and spoke of her daily struggles with her faith. She had to choose faith some days. Faith does not mean constant calm or easy acceptance of things. It is a reliance on hope, on the power of God’s love to be bigger than everything we experience. Throughout my struggles, I have had to step back from thinking of things in terms of what is “fair” because that leads me to utter frustration. Instead, I TRY to think about what can be done with what is.
My faith is not without wavering and questions sometimes. It is not so much the questioning of God (though I too have gone into that doubt) as wanting to understand the reasoning behind the things that happen. Why does one person’s loved one’s life get spared and not another’s, when their plea on their knees was both filled with love and deep longing? I can’t answer that specific question nor would I even want to because I don’t think that any of us, as humans, would honestly be able to handle a full comprehension of those intricacies.
I am honored and glad that you said these things to me. You are welcome to vent and question to me anytime you want. You are not the first person who has come to me with questions, even anger about the faithful in the midst of the seeming chaos and tragedy that surrounds our world and our personal lives.
I want to give you a quick overview of my faith life. I think that foundation is important. I would, at any time, go into the whole history of my faith throughout my life, but right now I want to focus on the now. I think a relationship with God and His son, whose words taught about making our way through all that we endure, is primary. We all have different personalities and therefore different ways of praise and worship is logical. I think that if someone’s heart is set on that relationship with God, then the church they choose to sit in is not the key point.
Obviously, there is some murkiness with this in some of the justifications people use to make certain choices. That is why being rooted in The Word becomes so important, seeking truth in our choices.
My recent involvement with a number of ministries has brought me to various churches in the tri-state area and it has been amazing to see how we can all come together in commonality for Jesus.
I don’t know why I have been through marriage hurt and my son has health issues and…. You don’t need me to go on. I don’t know why one of my dear friends lost her father, a good man with a daughter crying out to God. If his life had been spared, would that have been her conversion? (I am not asking you, just posing the wondering of it).
I personally recognize human free will and that evil exists and bad choices are made that lead to small injuries and catastrophic wars, but know that God could stop such things and does not. There is such a paradox in the appreciation we express for “the good He does” without blaming Him for the bad. I have no solution to this problem that will make ____ + ____ = Okay.
I think that we want God to be like Superman, to come in and stop earthquakes and car accidents and burning buildings and…. God is not human, though. He has a vision we cannot comprehend, a way that it all fits in ways we could not imagine. I am sure that you have heard many of the analogies used, and I feel like to start putting them all here would be more annoying to you than anything else because you get the explanations, just not what lies behind them. WHY? Well, we know that things fall because of gravity and the physics behind gravity, but why is gravity there? “It just is” seems an insufficient answer. That is where I find my God. I see that there are things I cannot imagine that are beyond the personal things we endure – a universe that never ends, the miracle of life. We have all the scientific explanations for the how, but not the why. And that “why” is where doubt and faith meet and have to figure out a way to get along or cause constant dissonance. All of the questioning is awesome. To me, that is God working in us. The people who don’t bother asking and continue to choose however they want are the ones who are farther away.
We’re all afraid. We’re afraid of there being nothing…. We’re afraid of there being something and not doing the right things. My assessment is that we’re all a bunch of screwed up people and God loves us as though we are the most perfect things in the world, and He is there through it all. I think there are times when He intervenes and times when He does not. And maybe someday it will all make sense or maybe someday it all won’t matter and the tears we have shed will be the water that washes us anew. Maybe our deceased loved ones are celebrating what their death brought to light. I don’t know if that was part of God’s plan and part of why he allowed those deaths to come to pass, but there are rays of light that come from the darkness.
Challenges from my childhood have allowed me to offer words of comfort and understanding to people. My being left brought me into a whole other phase of my life. My son’s challenges seems to carry with them a vision that others don’t have. My daughters fiestiness a means to overcome. I don’t feel like this is the place to quote scripture right now, so I am going to hold that back. I do want to relay a story that involves an event from The Bible.
Ephraim and Kira play Upwards Soccer. Upwards sports is a Christian league. They do compete, but they also work on character building and faith. Last year Ephraim was in the 6-8 year old division. His team was good, really good. I am talking about kids with incredible talent. Even the weakest player, other than Ephraim, was good.
Ephraim…smiled and had fun. He kicked the ball to the other team and when we told him to watch the goal, he did watch it, as the ball went into it. He is not fast or very coordinated. He enjoys himself, though. I was assistant coach. The main coach for his team was the pastor for the church where the soccer fields are. He is married with four beautiful and athletic children. The two girls were 11 and 9 and two boys were 6 and 4 last year. They have brilliant smiles and natural skills. Ephraim loved his coach and the coach’s kids were awesome with him, as were the other players on his team, who all came to realize that he was doing the best he could and provided him with encouragement and forgiveness (when he let the other team have the ball).
Standing next to his coach we were watching him play. We were talking about how he seemed hesitant to even try to take the ball away from someone. I said I was not sure he understood the rules. He said he didn’t think that my son wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. At the end of the games the coaches give out stars. He gave out stars for offense, defense, etc. Then he said, “Now I know that we all have Jesus inside of us, but there is one player that when I look out at the field I really see Jesus.” He said my son’s name. Ephraim’s face lit up with a huge smile and he turned to hug my mom who was right behind him. he gave him the “Jesus,” sticker.
I relayed this story to a friend whose whole life has been transformed by her newfound faith. Afterwards, I told her how my brother has said my son could be a prophet. She said there are people who understand a vision we can’t. She referred to a story in The Bible (I am going to fast forward through it). There is spying and ensuing war. Elisha looks out the window with one of the servants, who sees that there are troops storming in and says something to the effect of “we are done, totally outnumbered” and Elisha says, “No we’re not. We’re okay.” The servant is baffled and asks him what he is talking about. Elisha tells him to look again, but to look with faith and not fear. The servant looks again and sees that all up in the surrounding areas are their own troops, prepared for the siege. Elisha had that vision, to see beyond what was right in front. She likened my son to him, saying how we see the game of soccer and the rules of soccer and he is playing a whole different game and sees something much bigger.
God’s vision is infinitely bigger than what we see.
We look at this game of life and the set of rules that make sense to us. We want the people that work hard to succeed and those with faith to be blessed in ways that make sense to us. The blessings are something we can’t put in the numeric sense. Like soccer points, the greater reward may not be the goal, but the sharing of the time with people. The big smile my son gets when anyone makes a goal.
So my offering to you is that even pounded by the storms of life, faith is some sense of peace that the harshness life sometimes hands us has a contribution to our existence that we just can’t yet get, and that God is there with us to weather it. We must move through the poor choices that others make and the devastation of war, famine and our own heartaches through loss.
I overheard a great analogy one day. It was along the lines of if our kids ask us for candy before dinner, for example, and we say no, they may beg and beg and beg for it. Sometimes we might say okay, sometimes not.
If our children asked us if they could go play on a busy road, though, no amount of begging would make us change our minds. We know better. They don’t get it and may get angry, but we know what we need to do for their well-being.
I cannot fathom what would make sense out of the pains, why He would allow that evil (which was not from Him) to be carried out. However, I don’t feel it as God not caring or because of a lack of a God.
We need to do what sounds simple, but is ultimately the hardest. Trust and keep faith. And reach out to one another when we don’t understand.