A God I Don’t Get

confused_studentI’m glad I serve a God I don’t always get. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God.” There are a lot of things about God I don’t fully understand: that’s why He’s God and I’m just me. Take the problem of evil. “Evil, a problem? No kidding.” Let me be more specific. The “problem of evil” refers to the seeming incompatibility of three statements: 1) God is all-good, 2) God is all-powerful, and 3) Evil* exists in the world.

Take any two of the statements as true, and the third seems impossible. Haven’t you, in the midst of suffering, ever wondered whether a good God would allow you to experience such pain? Or maybe you doubted God’s power to bring you through the trial? Not only do we struggle with the problem of evil when we go through tough times–theologians have been working through this question for centuries, and their attempts at an answer come in three basic types:

  • Some limit/redefine God’s power. To many who can’t live with the mystery of the problem of evil, it seems better to assume that God is well-intentioned, but can’t always prevent evil and suffering. This is the point of the once-popular book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and it comes up in the sappy sentimentalism of those that don’t want to face up to the fact that God willingly, sovereignly, allows specific trials into our lives (some of which arise, albeit indirectly, as a result of others’ sin).
  • Some limit/redefine God’s goodness. While most pastors and counselors shy away from this option, it seems to be the path many sufferers lean toward while they are under the weight of heavy trials (it’s great for sulking!). But the Bible is clear that God is “not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with [Him]” (Psalm 5:4).
  • Some limit/redefine evil. While it sounds kind of funny, you might be more familiar with this approach than you think. Have you ever tried to encourage someone by telling them that the suffering in their life would actually turn out to be something good? While it is true that God works all things together for good to those who love Him, this approach sometimes overlooks the fact that evil–including suffering–is evil! If it weren’t, then why does God hate it so much? Why is it that heaven is free from all suffering and evil?

The fact is that none of these approaches to the problem of evil is adequate. At the end of the day, this is one of those issues where the “secret things belong unto the LORD our God.” I may not have the philosophical answer to the problem of evil (even though God does), but one thing is for sure: God is so good, and so powerful, and hates evil so much, that He sent His only Son to suffer Himself, so that one day He could wipe away all tears from the eyes of all the redeemed.

He may be a God I don’t get, but I’m glad. I’ll have eternity to get to know Him.

*I’m taking “evil” to mean both the sin in the world and the calamity that comes as an indirect result of that sin (such as destructive storms, cancer, etc.)

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