What do you do when the goodness of God seems bad? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
My wife has been through a hard time this week with relationship issues, medication problems, and on top of this we found out that a friend in Charlotte, died within the past week or so. As a husband, this is also a stressor on me. I would much rather be the one directly going through the suffering than her.
At times like this, it’s hard to be a Christian apologist. I’m supposed to be the man with the answers. The sad thing is there are truths that we cannot know, such as why a good God allows suffering to come into our lives at times.
I often debate with atheists. Many times, I am told that I believe in God so I can feel good about myself and have a source of comfort in hard times. While it is true there can be comfort, sometimes, it is not comfortable. Sometimes, one can think atheism itself would be comfortable. At least then you could say bad things happen because, well, bad things happen.
If Christian theism is true, and it is, then there is a good reason why bad things are happening. Not only that, there is a good God who is allowing these bad things to happen to you and they will somehow work toward your good. Sometimes those bad things also include the silence of heaven when it seems like God doesn’t care. Surely God will directly intervene, and yet many times He does not.
You see, the great fear is not then that God does not exist. Rather, as C.S. Lewis said, it is that God exists and that this is what He is really like. Dr. Douglas Groothuis in his book Walking Through Twilight talks about something he calls Misotheism. This is where you believe all the right things about God, but you have a hatred for Him at the time.
If you have never wrestled with misotheism, I wonder how seriously you are taking suffering in the world and your faith.
Many times we all want to act spiritual when that comes. When we go out in public, we have to show the world that we have it all together! This is what good Christians do, isn’t it? Not only that, the church doesn’t seem to often welcome sufferers. We have worship songs that more are meant to make us feel good and many times we can think that if we are feeling good, then all is right with the world and we’re being good Christians.
Good Christians can feel miserable. Go through Paul’s epistles. See how many times he is in a state of sorrow. Oh, he has an underlying joy to be sure, but many times there is much pain going on in his life.
The pain here also is that for me, intellectually, I know the goodness of God. It’s the emotional turbulence that’s the problem. It’s again the opposite of what atheists accuse me of. I have the emotional goodness supposedly and that overrules the intellectual problems. Not at all. Times of doubt for me come not when I encounter intellectual difficulties, those are usually able to be adequately answered and even if not there’s still a plethora of powerful evidence untouched, but rather from emotional difficulties.
That means at those times, I have to look and realize that a good God is allowing this season of suffering to take place. I must realize then there is something wrong with my concept of goodness or of love or of both. I seem to think at times that God being good and loving means that He will intervene in those times of dire need and do something directly. Maybe He won’t.
You see, when we think about God being good and loving, we often think that means He will do something right now. We want things to work out for our good, but we are not thinking of years down the road or even in eternity as not all will work out this side of eternity. We want God to intervene right now! We are short-sighted creatures. We do not see the long-term.
God does. Sometimes our short-term good would be long-term pain and we don’t know that. Picture the story of the boy who tries to help the butterfly break free from its casing. In doing so, he actually kills the butterfly because breaking free is what gives it the strength it needs to be a butterfly.
Many times, we will look back on times of suffering in our lives and think “I would never have chosen that, but God did use it for good.” When I was in high school, I went through a time of depression that was intense. That drove me to Bible College actually where I found out about Christian apologetics. I used to end the story there, but now it is not over there. It is Christian apologetics that led me to my wife Allie.
Her story meanwhile had her trying to kill herself over a bad relationship. She never would have wanted that, but lo and behold in a time of recovery, this other guy gets in contact with her and reaches out to her to be a friend. In the end, he became more than a friend. He became a husband.
I have to trust that God will work something good out of the suffering that is going on. It has not taken Him by surprise. He knows what is happening. I have to be willing to surrender short-term well-being and happiness for long-term good. I do not think we should read Jeremiah 29:11 and individualize it, but God has plans for each of us to shape us into the likeness of Christ and His desires for us are actually much greater than our own. Our dreams to Him are too small.
In each life a little rain must fall. Let’s be there and help one another out and please don’t give this nonsense that a Christian should always be happy. We shouldn’t be. We should mourn at times. We should know this world is not perfect. We should make it better, but we’re not God. We’re not going to do it all. We can’t change the whole world, but we can change the world of someone else, and that is our neighbor. Reach out to them. Listen to them. Be a friend. Help them out. Perhaps if more of us did that, we would find our world changed for the better.
For now, I choose to walk through the valley trying to find my way and only step by step. My wife and I are in a hard time, but I am sure that give it some time and we will be in a much better place and look back later and say “Can you believe we were that worried at that time?” God’s blessings sometimes come through sorrows that are meant to shape us to be like Jesus.