I ran across a comment yesterday on a CNN article regarding the gassing of innocent children in Syria that posed the age old question: “If there’s a God, how could He allow such an atrocity to happen?” As usual, it brought up simultaneous reactions in my spirit of both heartbreak and anger, as many posts that mock our Abba Father do. But I’ve come to realize that they don’t affect me because I’m under the impression that He can’t handle or isn’t used to the abuse. They affect me because I know Him. Personally. I know who He is and I know His true character and it saddens me how far off the mark that those who mistakenly perceive Him are.
But I also know that it’s not entirely their fault.
It wasn’t too long ago that I found myself grappling with the same questions. I wanted to finally be able to reconcile all of the pieces of the God I thought I knew from growing up in a strict Southern Baptist household – The God of exclusion and favoritism; the God of a bunch of rules that made my life less fun; the God who claimed to love His creation, but seemed to turn a blind eye when death, war and famine ravaged it; and the God who could ever even think of sending anyone to rot in a pit of fire – With the God that I was told adored me so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die for me. THAT kind of God would just snap His fingers and fix everything… Right?
A few years ago, a friend of mine who claims atheism posted an article on Facebook about a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a young boy and asked the same question: “If there’s a God, why does He allow this to happen?” And in one of my braver moments – Usually I don’t jump into social media conflicts, but this time, I felt I had a relatively appropriate response for her as the mother of a young son – I presented this analogy to her:
“You are a fantastic parent. I see how you love your son and how you raise him to love others around him. If as he grows up, you instill in him manners, you teach him right from wrong and you lead him to believe that he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to as long as he does so through integrity and hard work… And instead, one day he chooses to rob and murder someone… Is that your fault? Or his?”
Friends… Our Creator is good, in both the most simple and complex sense of the word. And He is the ultimate Dad. He knows what’s best for us and the life that will bring us the most abundance before we are even a thought in our parents’ parents’ parents’ minds.
So why do we continuously blame Him for the heartbreaking choices that His broken creation makes?
I didn’t want to simply live in the answers of scholars and pastors and believers around me. I wanted to KNOW. Firsthand. Let me tell you…It hasn’t been easy. But it has been the absolute most beautiful ride of my life. And I’ve come to realize that the greatest lie the devil ever pulled off is not only convincing the world that he doesn’t exist, but that his attributes are our Father’s.
Contrary to what our society has adopted as truth, God is pure, unadulterated love.
But you can not have love without free will, the ability to choose for yourself.
You can not have free will without temptation, the tug to choose something other than what He offers.
You can not have temptation without sin, the choice that contradicts the love that He hopes we choose.
And you can not have sin without great pain, loss, misery and evil.
If our Father had had it His way from the very beginning, heartache would have never entered the world. Every ounce of anguish comes straight from the enemy of our souls.
So why doesn’t He just snap His fingers and wipe him out, too?
Because every day is a war for our souls that simply isn’t finished yet.
Ever since the original Fall of Man, God has been on a rescue mission to bring each of His children home to Him and He will not rest until all who are meant to choose Him have. By snapping His fingers to eliminate evil, He would also be eliminating our opportunity to choose to rise above and overcome inexplicable evil with inexplicable love… And ultimately, our opportunity to choose Him.
But there’s still one more unimaginably beautiful layer, y’all. God isn’t naive – He knows that even the best of His children will continue to stumble up until the day when they meet Him face to face. And instead of leaving us to fend for ourselves when we choose to walk eyes-wide-open into our own destruction, He not only takes us by the hand and leads us to healing, but He turns our situations around for both our good and the good of humanity. Have you ever stared a once-annihilated heart in the eyes and marveled that it managed to find joy again? That is something that is simply impossible to do in our own power… But not in His. For “His power is made perfect in our weakness” and it is His hope that in praising Him openly during our roughest storms, others will witness it, wonder why we are different…And want Him too.
In the end, it’s all about freedom and choice.
Because really, can you say you have love any other way?
God does not cause our pain – We do a fine job of bringing that on ourselves – Nor does He wish it upon us. But He may allow it if in the grander scheme of things, it draws us nearer to Him or ends up equipping us to help someone else traverse a storm. One thing is for certain – He is committed to ensuring that not one teardrop is wasted.
My friends, the answer to why a gracious, merciful and unfathomably loving God can allow evil to exist in the world is so simple to me – He affords us the opportunity to CHOOSE LOVE in all senses of the word. Loving ourselves as His children. Loving others, especially those who deserve it least. And most importantly, loving Him. But without love, there is no free will and with free will must come the opposite end of the spectrum: Evil. And as for why bad things happen to good people, or to anyone really, it is nothing more than the ripple effect of humanity suffering the consequences of not only our wrong decisions, but those of us around us.
Oh, how He loves us, my friends. More than we could ever fathom. And we have a choice each day to either reciprocate and pay forward that love or perpetuate the very fear, hate and pain that we turn around and lament about. Many avoid acknowledging the integral part that we as man have had to play in the downfall of our broken world because it’s an incredibly heavy fault to admit. What an incredible turn this world would take though if we willingly opened our eyes to that fact and realized that if our choices are the problem, our choices are also the solution.
Choose Christ. Choose true love. It really is all we need.