This post is the third of a series of posts about the concept of free will and God’s will. Each post will contain a thought related to the larger discussion of God’s Will & how it relates to us.
First of all, please feel free to go back & read the first & second posts of this series before you continue because the thoughts will continue directly from those posts. Did you do it? NO!??! Go do it. Now? OK…
We’ve established two things thus far when it comes to God’s will. First is that God’s will is more of a game plan than a pure instruction manual. His Will for us is to be like Jesus in all circumstances whatever they are. Secondly, we established that sometimes there are no black & white answers when wondering if you should do something or not. For example, should I stay home & work for God or go to Madagascar & work for God? The answer is yes, therefore the question is not is one or the other God’s will. It is God’s will for you to work for Him; how & where can be up to you.
Many people aren’t comfortable with that idea however. While it’s true that God is an omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere), & omnipotent (all-powerful) being that is in control of this world, we get hung up on the idea of control, or rather what exactly that means. Especially when it comes to certain subjects like pain & suffering. Especially pain & suffering.
The problem a lot of people have, and not just atheists mind you, is if God is indeed omniscient, omnipresent, & particularly omnipotent, why would He let a world continue, let alone create one, in which there was such pain & suffering? And even if He would, why isn’t He doing anything about it?
God is all-powerful therefore He can do anything He wants.
God is all-loving and loves His creation immeasurably and intensely.
Evil is a reality and suffering is a part of every part of creation.
You can easily see the contradiction. Power and love usually leads to action to rid whatever is loved of any pain & suffering. That’s what Disney & most fairy tales we’ve grown up hearing has trained us to think. So this can start to lead us down some interesting thoughts when it comes to God.
If God is indeed all-loving but there’s suffering, He must not be powerful enough to stop it.
If God is indeed all-powerful, He must not be willing to stop it.
If God is indeed unwilling to stop it, He must not be all-loving.
If God is not all-loving, perhaps its best to not believe in such vindictive and uncaring God.
If presented with these arguments what would you say? I’d like to offer three thoughts to help us navigate these stormy waters.
I’ve three children (soon to be four actually). The oldest is 14 followed by 3 & 1. I’m constantly struck not only by the differences in their decision making, but also by the similarities. Though they’re about different things, many of the choices they both make that go against their mother & I’s wishes are due to their lack of experience & knowledge. My three year old doesn’t quite believe that he needs to go to bed when we say, and my fourteen year old believes herself quite ready to leave the house and be on her own although she’s no inclination of what insurance is, credit scores are, or the difference between a PPO & HMO plan.
In both cases Amy & I do know more about all of those obviously because we’ve been around a bit longer and had to directly deal with all of those situations and whereas not only have neither of them been around long enough to encounter all of the ends and outs of their respective challenges, but they’re not necessarily even ready to fully comprehend everything about them (even some adults don’t understand PPOs…).
This first thought is not the most empathetic, but just because we can’t think of any reason for pain & suffering doesn’t mean there isn’t one. While it may seem incomprehensible to us who do not have the slightest glimpse of eternity that there may yet be a reason & purpose for suffering we must realize that we’re comparing what we know with what God knows. Scripture promises in Romans 8:28 that all things will work out for the good of those who love God & are called according to His purpose. That means that God in His wisdom can make all things, even the horrible things, still work out for some form of good. It also means that He has the big picture in mind when He allows suffering.
For example it may seem horrible & uncaring that a young child may die from cancer, but what if somehow we could trace that child’s father finding God through his grief, influencing his other children to rely on God that then influence their children to be godly and so on. Through that one experience of suffering & the response that came from it, what if one of the man’s great-grandchildren becomes president of the United States, a godly president at that? Would that have happened had not the child died? It’s only a limited & incomplete example, but keep in mind that whatever pain & suffering we go through or witness now is not the end of the story, but part of God’s good is how He can use those who have gone through it to still show His glory and be His will. Just because we can’t imagine why suffering could ever be good doesn’t mean it can’t, especially with the God we love & serve. Indeed many have come to Christ not through good times, but through witnessing the response of Christian men & women who have faced death with hope & joy and wondered how they could do that.
The apostles & disciples who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion couldn’t imagine how their Savior could be now nailed upon a cross, nor could imagine a future after they buried He who they thought the Christ. But three days later, in God’s infinite knowledge & plan, their trust in God prevailed, and we still 2000 years later are eternally grateful for God working in ways we couldn’t fathom.
Next post we’ll delve into the next two thoughts concerning the challenge of pain & suffering, choice & love, then delve into other areas of evil, pain & suffering, God’s control of the world, and what they tell us about God’s will for our lives. Stay tuned! Grace to you.