Today, I want to follow-up on my thoughts about trash and treasure, by attempting to answer an objection that runs deep in the hearts of the skeptical. I hear this objection often when it comes to the issue of God’s love for human beings.
It goes something like this: “If God is such a God of love, how can He just sit idly by as people are devastated by natural disasters? Or how can He not intervene and stop those who abuse children? If God loves so much, why does He not show that love to the ones who need it the most?!”
These are good questions. They deserve valid answers.
In one sense, the answer to these questions is easy. In another sense, the answer is deeper than we can readily understand.
This skeptic’s objection is based on a couple of assumptions…
1) Love should prevent all bad things from happening. It is unloving to not protect the innocent.
Anyone who is a parent knows that you cannot prevent all bad things from happening to your children, even if you may want to do so. Though we would like to protect our children from every threat (or opportunity for harm) it is not always in their best interests. The over-protected are the inexperienced. There are vital lessons to be learned in real-life situations of struggle or hardship or (even) tragedy.
As an example, when our oldest child was first learning to ride his bike – we stayed right there with him, hand on the bike, steadying him when he was about to fall. But in order for him to become proficient at riding a bike, eventually, the parent must let go. We knew that, in time, our son would have to ride in situations where mistakes could cause him to take a spill. But the only way to make it possible for him to become a confident and capable bike-rider was to allow him to be open to the possibility of injury. Though we love him and would like to prevent all injury in his life – the only way for him to grow is to find his way, on his own.
Love seeks to protect, but cannot (should not) always protect. There is growth that can only come by hardship or the possibility of injury.
“Well, that’s all fine and good, but how does that help people who are in the midst of a personal loss or tragedy?” Maybe it doesn’t. Initially. I’m pretty sure that nothing much helps us when we are in the midst of hurting or grieving. Platitudes and advice, to the hurting, are like salt to the wounds. Words, even the truest of words, are like a kick to the chest of those who are down.
But there comes a moment, after the grief and hurt subside, that certain truths can become lifelines. One of those truths is that God is there for us, in the midst of our pain – and His love can comfort us in our most deficient times. Just as with my bike-riding son: he could blame his parents for not protecting him from the crash that gave him the bloody knees, OR he could come home for loving comfort and healing care, in his moment of need. In the same way, we can either be mad at God because He didn’t prevent our personal hurt or loss – or we can turn to Him and experience the depth of His love in ways that we could not have known, without the hurting.
We know this is true. We have all heard of those people who faced tragedy or failure or great loss – and because they turned to God, and His love, found that the very thing that caused them so much suffering, actually became a foundation for immense growth. They became better people on this side of their pain than they were before.
It is the nature of God to pour out His grace upon the humble (Prov. 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5) – and none are more humbled than those who are hurting.
Should God prevent all bad things from happening? Maybe the real question is, should God prevent the opportunity for us to grow into the people we need to be?
When we really see the value of hardship in our lives, the answer is not so hard to take.
We will cover the second assumption tomorrow…
Prayer focus: God, help me to seek Your Face in difficult times… and to grow in my trust in You.