What else can you suggest? If God made slaves of everyone, stopping all wrongdoing by forcing us to give up our favorite bad habits, we would be the first to get angry with him.
It would be the height of insincerity to dare criticize God for not always interfering when something terrible happens to us. Time after time we have each proved by our actions that we do not want his love and wisdom restricting us.
A God of love wants the whole world to act in love, but could you force someone to love you? Where would the goodness be in any action if it were impossible not to be good? All of life would become meaningless.
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We say there is no hell and then set new records in suicide rates. We call Christian morality old-fashioned and suddenly it is old-fashioned not to know the latest AIDS statistics. We fill our hospitals with bodies damaged by drugs, alcohol, smoking and wrong sex. Try adding up even the dollar cost of divorce, cheating, laziness, dangerous driving, stealing, vandalism, prisons, and police. One wonders how our economy has survived this long. Enormous problems are inevitable whenever God’s laws are regarded as harsh restrictions rather than loving expressions of divine wisdom.
We reject God’s laws, hurt each other, and then have the cheek to blame God for the resulting disaster. All suffering can be tracked back to human wrong-doing – not necessarily the action of anyone presently alive, but to someone’s deliberate disregard of God and his ways. (There is even a human link to natural disasters.) And why did not God strike that person dead before others could be hurt? Because to be fair he should do the same to you and me.
Only the insane would dare demand God give them everything they deserve. Though we are too trapped in our own dirt to have a hope of seeing ourselves as we really are, if we were a little less blinded by pride, we would realize we all stand guilty before a holy God. We have each added to humanity’s pain.
Many of us would go to any lengths – even to accusing our Judge of injustice – in an unconscious attempt to push the spotlight away from our dirty conscience. If only we could muddy God’s name, narrowing the gap between his perfection and our shabby behavior, we would feel better.
But the day must come when everything is put right. All evil must be removed. Proud people have been demanding it for thousands of years, though they have no idea what they are asking. Our choice before that terrifying moment will decide whether we will be around to enjoy an evil-free world.
The suffering of humanity’s only innocent (Jesus) broke open the way to remove all suffering, and when he re-visits earth he will complete this work. But how, without being utterly unfair, could he destroy every trace of evil without destroying you and me? Only by us letting him take our darling sins from us, and trusting him to have taken their terrible consequences upon himself. Then we will be spared and no one can accuse God of being unfair. He has paid the penalty himself.
Another angle on tragedies: The talk of thinkers with little experience differs greatly from the findings of people with the deepest experience of both God and suffering. The apostle Paul, one of the most qualified persons ever to raise this subject, discovered that no disaster could ‘separate us from the love of God.’ (Romans 8:35-39) For nearly 2,000 years this hard-won understanding has been tested by the pain of thousands of Christian victims of cruelty who have triumphed while suffering, rejoicing in the goodness of God.
Include all types of suffering, and it is true to say that literally millions of people have suffered without it lessening their devotion to Jesus. In fact, they insist it was God’s comfort, love and inspiration that gave them the power to endure.
It was once claimed that according to the science of flight bumble-bees cannot fly. But people who know bumblebees could not be fooled. They might not have a scientific answer, but they know bumblebees fly. Similarly, people who really know God, even those who have suffered as much as is humanly possible, know what they know: God’s love is as endless as his power. Gaining knowledge this way might not satisfy scientific curiosity, but it is truth proven by cold reality.
‘When you know God,’ breathed someone imprisoned in a Nazi death camp, ‘you do not need to know why.’ The hearts of thousands leap in agreement.
He really knew God. This once violent enemy of Christianity was clever, but as everyone who has not found God knows, intelligence does not help you find God. (Luke 10:21; Mark 10:15; 1 Corinthians 1:19-29) The apostle Paul’s dealings with God makes the spiritual experience of this world’s smartest people shrink to nothing. (Acts 9:1-24; 13:7-12; 14:8-11; 28:3-6; Romans 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 11:1; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Galatians 1:10-20; 2:1-2,6-7; Philippians 1:21; 2 Timothy 1:3)
Few people have endured such agony. He was hated, sworn at, cheated, whipped, cruelly beaten, hit with stones, jailed and shipwrecked time after time after time. (1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-29)
Paul’s understanding of the purest love completes his claim as an expert on the link between God’s love and suffering. (1 Corinthians 13) He was not fooled by the many forms of self-centeredness and mere emotionalism that many people pretend to be love.
Though you reject every Christian on the planet, you cannot ignore this saint of a man. And he discovered that the reality of suffering cannot reduce the endlessness of God’s powerful love.
This understanding did not come cheaply to Paul, and he realized it could not be passed on by words alone. (Ephesians 3:17-19) Deep experience, prayer, and continual closeness to God is a common price.