It’s one of the most popular objections I hear people voice as a reason they don’t go to church or believe in God. How could a loving God allow bad things to happen to us – his precious creations? Today we’re going to talk about that land mine of a question.
***Before I get into it, though, please remember that this blog is named “messy” worship for a reason. I’m not perfect and my suggestion for an answer – in real, live conversation – may just lead to more questions. A question about the creator of the universe is rarely finalized in one answer so consider this just a conversation starter!***
So… how could a loving God allow bad things to happen? What if the answer lies in reconsidering the words “loving” and “bad”? It hit me while I was reading Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In the same famous chapter that gets quoted at many weddings (“Love is patient. Love is kind…”) he also talks about a kind of perspective shift.
“It’s like this: When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.”1 Corinthians 13:11-12 NLT
There’s two perspectives laid out here:
- Child / poor mirror / incomplete
- Grew up / perfect clarity / know everything completely
The first list represents our perspective during our life here on earth. While we’re here, even the brightest of us still only knows a portion of the whole truth. That leads us to – like a kid – fill in the gaps with our imagination. As a kid, when my parents stopped me from pulling the dog’s hair out and eating it I filled in my gap of understanding with the logic that they must be the meanest parents ever. As an adult, I realize that those same “mean parents” were just saving me from possibly getting bit or putting something gross and dangerous in my mouth (or possibly even a life-long dog fur eating addiction… yikes…).
The second list represents our perspective during our eternity in Heaven. Paul says we will see everything with perfect clarity and we will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. My commentary says that the Greek term for “with perfect clarity” actually translates more accurately as “face to face.” That means we will:
- see perfectly exactly what was caused by sin, death and the devil versus what was an act of God for our good.
- see how God protected us from unseen dangers as we remember how they seemed more like unfair “mean parent” moves at the time.
- have a completely uncompromised view of how God took everything the devil meant for evil and turned them all into something that could bless us, grow us, and show us just how big his love is.
- have a completely different perspective on everything we currently sort into boxes with labels like “bad” or “fun” or “loving” or “tragic.”
That’s crazy! Can you even imagine?!? So, what do we do in the meanwhile? Cause, I don’t know about you, but I have an imagination that tends to run a little bit wild…
In the meanwhile, maybe the best thing to do is focus on Paul’s final words in that chapter. “There are three things that will endure – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13 NLT) How different would our current perspective be of our loving God and of our bad things if we used faith, hope and love to fill in our current gaps in understanding?!
Seriously – let’s try it! For the next week, every time I see something bad on the news or hear of a tragedy within my friend/family circles, I’m going to work on answering each “why, God?!” with answers of faith, hope and love. At the end of the week, I’ll take a look at how my mental and emotional state is and how my relationship with God is. If you’d like to join me, please comment below! And don’t forget to comment again at the end of the week on how it impacted you emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually!
Prayer: Dear Lord, I’m so thankful that you know more than me and that you, not me, are in charge of running the universe. Please help me focus on filling in my understanding gaps with faith, hope and love rather than doubts and fears. Grow and protect me through each trial until the day when I can know you face to face. Amen.