Hello! First, I am so excited to have found your blog – it is a breath of fresh air in my life I am having major issues in my walk with God. I’ve begun to question him and everything surrounding Christianity and I do not want to. I find myself resenting the thought of giving thanks and praise to God, because my mind keeps saying ‘he is wicked; he watches innocent people be killed and die every day, he is going to let some of his children who did not even have the opportunity to know him go to hell, how could this be a loving God worthy of praise?’ That sort of thing. I dislike this a lot and it is seriously tormenting me. I want to love God and I want to be able to be strong in my faith but I just…can’t. What’s your take on this?
First off, thank you for the kind words 🙂
Secondly, as bad as it may seem, I think you are in one of the best spaces with regards to faith: a space where you have the opportunity to get to know God for who He really is, and not who others define Him to be/say He is.
Most of us have grown up with this image of a God who punishes people for their shortcomings, and who just lets bad things happen to good people. We believe that a loving God who is all-powerful should stop every bad thing in the world from happening – otherwise, what kind of God is He?
The answer is that He’s still a good God – even with all the bad things that happen in the world.
Without going too much into theology, what happened with the fall of man meant that sin entered into what was once a perfect existence. Where there once was serenity and intimacy with God there was now chaos, and all of creation was set against its creator. Evil, sickness, mortality – they all became the reality of the human existence. And you might argue, God could have stopped that, but God cannot contradict Himself. He does not go back on His word. He could not undo making man in His image, and us such, giving man free will. And free will meant that human beings had the choice: life with a good God, or life on our own left to our own devices. And we chose the latter. And I think no matter how much we harp on about how Eve is to blame for all the suffering we see, if God had restarted that story over and over again, the result would probably be the same. Man, being made in God’s image, has always wanted to play God for himself. And that’s really the reason we are in this mess we’re in. It’s why we see so much tragedy in the world today.
But that doesn’t really answer the question of why a good God let’s bad things happen, does it? I have a few views on the answer to this question that go beyond the creation story, but I won’t delve into them. Instead I’ll ask you to ask even more questions that will help you realize that this is a lot more complex than Good God, Bad God.
Like, what makes you think a good God takes pleasure in our pain? You’d have to think that to make the assumption that He simply just allows bad things to happen to us, and for no reason. But all of the Bible speaks to God’s heart for His creation, and how He grieves when we do. I don’t know about you, but if I had to suffer heartbreak any time the people I loved did, I would not be a happy person at all. I would do everything in my power to stop the pain. Unless I couldn’t. Unless the pain wasn’t my choice or doing. Unless, perhaps, for some reason, it was better for me not to do so.
One of the things that helps me to conceptualize this idea of God being good in spite of my pain is my understanding that I was made for more than just this. We aren’t here for just right here and right now. There is so much more to the story than some 70 years on earth. And to think that the sufferings of this temporary life that is nothing but a wisp of smoke is the way we measure the goodness of God? That’s such a narrow way of thinking – one I myself had to get out of. God has a lot more for us than just here, just now; and that includes a life where there is no pain or fear or suffering or death. This is really just the pre-show. And it is nothing in comparison to the glory that awaits us.
But let’s keep asking questions: why focus on just the bad things happening to good people? What about the good things happening to everyone? What about the air we get to breathe every day? The sunshine? The moonlight? Water, and cotton, and flowers? What about the money in our accounts, the clothes on our backs, and the fact that since the creation of the universe, this here earth of ours has not stopped spinning even once? Are those not God too? How are we so willing to write God off for what we don’t understand when we have the opportunity to praise Him for what we do? If we’re going to get into the habit of measuring God’s goodness by what He does and doesn’t do, then we better be fair about it. We better give weight to it all before we give labels.
And what of the bad things that happen to bad people? Are those deserved? How bad is bad enough to merit bad things? Does a lie deserve cancer? A theft deserve a broken femur? Does my lust condemn me to poverty? Who gets to define bad? What is the standard? Who is good? If God is the definition of goodness, then certainly we are all doomed! But thank God it’s quite the contrary. By Grace we are free from all condemnation and the wages of our sins… but why do we not recall this about God? Why do we not remember that even when we do bad things, His love saves us from the repercussions? Why do we only focus on the bad things that happen to objectively good people and not recognize all the ways we all have fallen short, and yet still benefit from His goodness? Again, if we want to take God to court, then let’s list ALL the facts, and not be selective. God is good – to the good and the bad. I think that counts for a lot, and tells me a lot more about His character than anything else.
I vehemently dislike the image that has been painted of a God who willingly carts people off to hell. This is a lie and is so far from God’s heart. The wages of sin is death – we have condemned ourselves in our own disobedience. If I told you not to eat the PB sandwich I left on the kitchen counter because you were allergic to peanuts, and you ignored my warning and ate it anyway, am I the one to blame for your inevitable death? No. You might say I should never have put it there in the first place, but in my house, I make the rules. Peanut Butter is not essentially bad – it just might be bad for you. If it were me, I’d probably watch you die thinking, ‘I told you so’ (No, I would at the very least try mouth to mouth or hope you had an EpiPen). A loving God on the other hand goes a step further than simply watch you die because of your own folly – he dies for you. Who does that? I sure wouldn’t. Only a good God could ever. He doesn’t condemn us – we have condemned ourselves. What He does do is offer us a way out by dying for us, so we don’t have to suffer the consequences of our own actions. And to think that people who have never heard of God will be carted off to hell is also a false image we have created. I don’t know how exactly God will split up the lots, but I do know that it won’t look anything like we expected it to. You will be both surprised and, I’m sure, disappointed at who makes the final cut when things ‘pop off’.
Do you ever think about the fact that the people who have the most reason to praise God are not the ones who have everything in the world going their way, but the ones who have suffered and lost the most? And it’s because you begin to appreciate the sheer goodness of God even more. It’s because it is in your pain that you most feel His love and warm embrace. It’s because in those moments He is closest to us, sharing in our suffering, not far off reveling in it.
Don’t feel bad about having these questions, but don’t dismiss them either. Let your questions draw you deeper into God’s word seeking answers. Pray and ask Him to reveal His heart to you. Seek and you will find. Ask and you’ll receive.
I hope you finish reading this with a lot more questions, and a deeper hunger for answers – many of which only He can provide.