One profound question people sometimes ask when confronted with the concept of God is, if there is a God, why does He permit so many bad things to happen?
I want to start telling them, “It sounds to me like the real question of your heart is not whether there is a God, but whether He is good.”
I want to be very compassionate with them. Which is only possible through the Holy Spirit. I want to let them know that there is no way I can understand the agony of their heart, of the hearts of so many people out there who have been utterly abused and devastated. But I truly believe that the only safe place for our broken hearts is in Him. The Maker of our hearts is the only one who can heal them, and fill them with the love they were born to have.
Their questions are legitimate. Keep asking those questions. Keep wrestling.
You can ask what kind of God would allow such torment in this world. But you must also ask yourself what kind of God, who is all-powerful, would subject Himself to the torment, too?
What kind of God would not utterly destroy all the people who hurt and destroy other people that He has made? Why wouldn’t He just erase them all? What kind of God would leave the splendor of heaven to come into a miserable world? Would the Queen of England or Donald Trump leave their luxury behind them and go spend a year living in a cramped, filthy shanty in a refugee camp? But God left more luxury than we will ever know to be born into primitive conditions, to suffer physical discomfort and hunger and pain, to sweat and work hard, to endure sleeplessness, and worse than these things, the rejection of people. What kind of GOD who made oceans and galaxies would stoop to wash the smelly, grimy feet of His disciples? What kind of God would give up His very life for people who hated Him and spit in His face?
It’s not logical to think that because we don’t like Him or wouldn’t set things up the way He did, that therefore He doesn’t exist. If you were writing a screenplay, you could design a fantasy world with whatever rules you wanted to. You have the right. God made this world with all it’s variety of creatures and landscapes, and He is the One telling this story. But the good news is that faaaaaaaaar from being a capricious and selfish God, He is actually full of abundant wisdom and kindness. And if you truly seek Him, He will show that to you. He will help you to understand some of His intent, His character. But you have to take a step of trust and believe that He is worth getting to know, that His intentions for you are actually for your blessing. That rather than trying to withhold God from you, He is actually wrestling against you to open your clenched fist and put inside it even bigger, more wonderful blessings than you could ever dream you wanted.
I have cried tears of confusion, wondering why He let certain things happen to me. It didn’t make sense and I felt betrayed. But I can honestly say without a trace of exaggeration, that He has turned every stormy sky into a rainbow for me. New storms come, but I know without a doubt He will turn them into something beautiful too. I have experienced His goodness, and come to know and love Him, and trust that His intentions for me are always good, and He knows what He is doing. So I urge you to dive into this adventure, and ask Him to show you who He really is, and to take your deepest hurts and make something wonderful out of them.
‘Cause how many kings step down from their thrones
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
26 “As a thief is shamed when caught, so the house of Israel shall be shamed: they, their kings, their officials, their priests, and their prophets, 27 who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their back to me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they say, ‘Arise and save us!’ – Jeremiah 2:26-27
The hearts of men are so hardened.
They see, but are blind.
And reasoning only goes so far. My knowledge only goes so far.
I have a sinking realization that I’m utterly helpless, that I have no power to raise anyone from the dead.
And even though it feels cold and depressing, perhaps that is precisely where I ought to be. I realize even now as I type this.
I CANNOT save anyone. Of course! How did I ever subtly, unwittingly slip into operating as if I could? It is the Spirit of Christ that saves. And far from being depressing, that should actually encourage me. Because if that is the case, then no one can escape from His pursuit, if He has predestined them to be His child. All I have to do is be obedient and let God do the work. Which, much to my relief, He is quite capable of accomplishing regardless of where I’m personally at in my abilities. Whether I know much or little, whether I’m having an off day or an on day, whether I’m speaking with someone I can relate to or with a person whose thought processes are entirely foreign to me, whether my culture and the culture of the person I’m sharing with are relatable or not, the relieving truth is that it is ALL God, so I’m free to be inadequate! I’m free to fail. The only responsibility that lies with me is to just be faithful with what I do have, and God will turn my meager offering into a feast, just like He did with the loaves and fish.
Oh how I needed to process this! It feels cleansing to write out this truth.
I remember a friend once told me that I was built to reach certain people that maybe I was the only one who could reach them, and maybe they (my friend) were meant to reach other people that only they could reach. But I have a contradictory philosophy. I think that anyone can reach anyone else. The most timid little girly person could be the one God uses to save a tattooed biker guy. The nerdy science kid could reach the cool guy (and I know of a testimony where that happened). Likewise, a tattooed teenager could bring an elderly woman to Christ. As a matter of fact, I think God has more fun using the more unlikely candidates to do the job, because then HE gets more glory for it! One of my favorite biographies was about Corrie Ten Boom after World War II, when she was safe and free. She was this incorrigible little old lady who didn’t seem to be afraid of anything, and she’d go into dark prison cells in Africa and lead hardened murderers to Christ. I loved it. I wish I had her audacity! I try to fake it sometimes, but it is far from natural. I’m too shy to do karaoke or freestyle dance in public, or even initiate spiritual conversations with coworkers. But as an intern with Cru, I have no choice but to walk up to people and ask them if they’ll do a survey for me. There is nothing natural about it. It takes sheer willpower. I keep hoping it will get easier. It doesn’t. But the irony is, as uncomfortable as this is, it’s exactly what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. Not surveys, but initiating spiritual conversations and sharing God’s love with people.
I am so encouraged to remember this. Because I DO believe it! I do. That God can use anyone, because it is HE who saves, not me!!
With this in mind, there are two things I really need to figure out. First, rather than tailoring my dialogue to people, I need to figure out how I can best represent my Savior. That should be my ultimate goal: to please Jesus. The outcome really isn’t my responsibility.
The second thing I need to figure out is how to just let go of what other people think of me. That’s really the root of all my inhibitions. I’m afraid of how people will view me. Literally all I want is to love and be loved. By everybody. But this isn’t even possible no matter how hard I try. Instead I need to arm myself with the mindset that God’s love is enough for my love-hungry heart, and that I have the privilege of sharing in His sufferings by bearing the rejection of others. It’s really Him they are rejecting after all. So maybe the real battle I have to fight isn’t learning to read people and relate to them, and how to pick and choose which apologetics I use and which tactics–although I’m still going to do those things. Maybe the real battle lies in learning to be satisfied in the sufficiency of Christ’s love and in learning to deeply love and care about others even when they reject that love.
I am challenged and inspired by Ann Voskamp’s quote in The Broken Way, “I am what I love and I will love you like Jesus, because of Jesus, through the strength of Jesus. I will love when I’m not loved back. I will love when I’m hurt and disappointed and betrayed and inconvenienced and rejected. I simply will love, no expectations, no conditions, no demands.”
That’s the goal. Abba, help me to love. And help me to obey You. And pleeeeeeeeeeease use me! Give me the priceless blessing of being the inadequate one in whose weakness you display Your power, and bring people to You by me. Let it be so!!