Several years ago I was giving a disabled man a ride in my car. He was stranded in town and was in need of transportation. Along the way the topic of God came up in our conversation, I very confidently expressed my faith in the existence of God and my belief that Jesus Christ died for my sins. He in return rhetorically asked me (with obvious bitterness) if there is a God, why would he allow so much pain and suffering, where is God for the little children who are being molested and abused? I was speechless, I had never been in that situation before, confronted with that question.
After leaving him at his home I began to ask God, “how was I supposed to answer him?” I became frustrated with myself because I had studied so much in apologetics regarding topics I might encounter with other religions, but on this I was not equipped. I knew the scripture that tells us to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” I felt terrible that I didn’t have a loving response for that man and began instead to pray for someone to come his way who could provide an answer for his doubt.
Thankfully I also knew the verse that tells us “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2Tim 3:16
So I sought God, I prayed, I listened and I studied His word.
I have learned that there are many interpretations regarding the sovereignty of God. Calvinists believe that God decided before the world was, who He was going to save and who He wasn’t. They believe you have no choice in the matter and if you aren’t one of the chosen one’s then you just don’t get to make it. They believe that we are so dead in our sins that we cannot even make a conscious decision on whether or not we believe in the saving grace of Jesus.
To me this paints a very opposing picture of who God reveals Himself to be in His word. Scripture tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that all who believe in Him would not perish. God doesn’t want anybody to perish, it is His hearts desire that every person would turn from there sins and acknowledge Jesus as savior and live.
Ezekiel 18:23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? says the Lord GOD, and not that he should turn from his ways and live?
Ezekiel 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies, says the Lord GOD. Therefore turn and live What we see in this passage is the one who needs to turn from their sin has a choice in their decision.
God designed us in His image, with our own creativity, feelings of love, desire, hope and faith. We also have our own will. God’s word tells us that He created man and woman, that they were created in His image. By all accounts we can presume that these were perfect, glorious creatures. They were so perfect that they were able to exist in the company of God. They walked and talked with Him in the garden of Eden. They had the benefits of communicating with God that we can only dream of, yet, Eve still succumbed to her flesh the moment Satan appeared.
Satan asked her, Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?
Eve Answered, We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' Looking back we see that God didn’t mention anything about touching the tree. . .was there something wrong with Eve? Did she have a hearing problem? Was she dense? No, she was created perfect, she did not have any physical or mental imperfections. What she did have was her own creativity and her own free will. Her creativity went past it’s boundaries in that she exaggerated what God had said. Could it be that her flesh was already experiencing the effects of a sin nature and that she was being prideful, trying to show that she had special insight into the nature of God?
Whatever the case, one could still ask, “where was God? Didn’t He know what was going on?” Well that couldn’t be because we know that God is omniscient. “Well then, was He somewhere else that prevented Him from stopping Satan?” No, because God is omnipresent. “Then I guess God just wasn’t strong enough to stop Satan.” No, that couldn’t be it either, because God is omnipotent. So what’s the deal? Didn’t God care? Scripture tell us that God Loves us, He loves us so much that Jesus left His place in heaven, took on human flesh then suffered and died for us.
It’s true that God is sovereign, and He could have stopped Satan, heck, He could have never put that tree in the garden in the first place, but that was not what He chose to do. We can speculate that the reason God did things the way that He did is because He wanted a race of people that would love Him of their own free will. However, I’m sure we can only touch the tip of the iceberg on God’s reasoning for doing things the way He does.
God is sovereign, and He can do all things, but a lot of the time He just let’s us mess up or achieve things on our own. We’re stuck in a world sick with sin and the consequences of that sin. There are struggles and strife that we must contend with. We can get sick because there are germs in this world, sometimes God heals us, sometimes He uses the infirmity for His glory. Sometimes we experience physical difficulties because God deems it necessary for our spiritual well being. We can’t put God in a box and say He must perform for us as we desire and do things according to our will. We are limited in our understanding, God is all knowing. We are limited in our faith, God is faithful. I trust Him implicitly even in my uncertainty. This is how I would answer the man in the wheelchair, or anyone else who would pose his same question to me.
I take great comfort in knowing that my God let’s me be me and when I mess up He is there to hold me, love me and often times cleans up my mess. I also take comfort in knowing that He will protect me when I need protecting, bless me when I need blessing and correct me when I need correcting. I know I hear Him when I don’t have tufts of flesh in my spiritual ears. When I do let those tufts get in the way, I know it was me and that He is still there, and He will still speak to me. How do I know when it was me and not Him? Because my God is perfect, He doesn’t make mistakes and He loves me perfectly. He never means any harm to me and He doesn’t play games with me. Indignation borders on pride when I refuse to see my own frailties and failures.
This is an ugly confused world, my hope is in heaven with my Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Until then I must exhibit the grace that God has given me to those around me. I must never waver in my faith that God is in control.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.