I was sitting in church tonight and my pastor was leading us in prayer. He prayed in the prayer something along the lines of “Let us not be distracted from life by the things of life.” I don’t know if he was really pondering what he had said just then, but I sure spent a lot of time thinking about it.
My first thought was that the idea was absurd. How could the things of life keep us from life? Then I realized that it was I that was absurd. That is, in fact, what always happens. We get so caught up on so many things on the road of life that we forget where it is that we are going.
Imagine what it would mean if you were driving down a road and you just spent all the time looking at scenery and billboards and you spent so much time that you forgot where you were going. Even if you take a scenic route while driving, you at least have an idea where you are and where you’re going. You don’t drive to see billboards normally, but you can be distracted by them. You drive to get somewhere, but those things on the side can divert your attention.
It is the same with all things. If we take a good thing and forget its purpose, we can easily end up with an addiction. Food is good, but it’s purpose is to provide nourishment. If we make it the end though, we will develop an addiction. The same goes for gambling, drinking, sex, or anything else.
In fact, take sex as an example. (By which I mean sexual intercourse of course.) Every young man dreams of it, but pity the man who marries just for it! In such a case, he is not wanting the beloved. He is merely wanting a function that she can provide. In marriage though, the truly good lover is not the one who merely wants sex, it is the one who wants the beloved and sex is the means. For one, the woman is the means to sex. For the true lover, sex is the means to the woman.
In fact, this is what makes it unique. If I was a married man, I could go to any woman on the street and get sex. Of course, it would be wrong, but I could do so. There is only one thing I couldn’t get from every woman on the street though. That would be the woman I love, the wife I’d have. Thus, when a married man looks forward to a “romantic evening” with his wife, he is not looking forward to just a physical thrill. He is looking forward to getting the beloved.
A similar type of analogy can help us with understanding the problem of evil. Consider the case of a man who has just got married and wants to be with his new wife. He is driving to their place wherever it may be in his excitement and unfortunately, hits a small object in the road and gets a flat tire. Our young man is a Romeo though. He will not simply tell the girl to get in the back seat because he can’t wait. He will repair it. Thus, he gets out and fixes the flat tire and then they drive to their destination for their first time together.
How is a person to look back on the situation? I think the true romantic would laugh. That is what the Problem of Evil is though in many ways. We are invited to be on the road to Paradise, yet there is suffering on the way. When we reach Paradise though, will we be complaining? No. In fact, any great inconvenience and suffering at the time will seem minimal when compared to the glory there.
Who are the people complaining about the problem of evil? They’re the ones that look back on the honeymoon and think of the flat tire. The ones we are to be are the ones that look back and remember the honeymoon. When we remember the tire, while it was suffering at the time, we’ll tell it as a funny story.
I must point out a danger for one in my position. I am always in a rush to accumulate more and more knowledge. However, I have to keep in mind, and maybe this is common for apologists, that the purpose of the knowledge is to bring glory to God. I do not acquire it for the sake of acquiring it. I have to watch and be careful that I don’t fall into pride either. I take great comfort that Paul said that he was given a messenger so he would avoid pride on account of his great revelations in 2 Cor. 12.
Friends. We are on the road of life. Let’s remember why we’re here. We’re here for God’s glory and joy. Not ours. Now if we follow the path, we will get glory and joy, but that is a by-product of the path. It is not the reason we are on the path. Look to that goal and be not distracted by the things of this world. Enjoy them, but make sure they have their proper place under him.