Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Attempt to Answer a Toughie

A posting in a forum asked,

"If God is the all seeing, all divine, all powerful big creator, why are there millions of innocent people starving to death in the world?"

The question is a good one, one that has been a stumbling point to belief in God for as long as people have wrestled with the idea of God.

I think first you have to consider that this world is not all there is. There is an eternal aspect to each and every one of us, which is an almost universal concept no matter what religion you look at. But since I believe in the God of the Bible and Jesus, I'll do my best to reason from that standpoint.

First, if indeed God is the creator of all things, then all things are His to do with as He pleases. Period. However, I think God does things for a reason and with purpose.

Example: Jesus and the disciples were walking through the temple in Jerusalem one day when they came upon a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus was it this man's own or his parents sin that caused him to be born blind.

The disciples were asking essentially the same question you asked. Why would God allow this man to be born blind? Isn't that a bad thing? Why would a loving God allow or cause this type of suffering?

Jesus answer was, so that I'd have the chance to show God's glory by healing this man here on this today (paraphrased, but that's the essence). Jesus indeed healed him, and that was one miracle of many in Jesus attempts to prove to the people who he was.

The point being, God did it for His own reason, not any reason that, beforehand, would have made sense to us. We, as humans, have such a short-sighted view on life, especially if we don't understand the eternal aspect. Was it a lack of love on God's part? A lack of compassion that God made this man blind most of his life? Or was it because God had a plan to reveal Himself to this man, and others through him, at a particular point in his life by doing something amazing? Again, the point being, God did it for his own reasons, but with purpose.

And, if God is indeed the creator, He doesn't need to ask us or justify to us His reasons, but I appreciate the beauty of the fact that He did explain it to us, on that occasion. And on many, many others.

Next, I've noted another person asking the question, what makes you assume people are innocent? Something to understand, from the Biblical standpoint from which I take my understanding of God, is that ALL people have sinned, and are under judgment and deserving of death. Everyone, everywhere, for all time. By God's standard, there IS no innocent person on earth. Jesus was the only one to live a sinless, perfect, truly innocent life, and even he was killed, quite brutally I might add. But again, he was killed for God's purpose and plan.

So, if we are all sinful, each of deserving of God's wrath and judgment, I think an even better question is: why does God allow his saved people to suffer? Biblically, those who have accepted Christ and are now clean and white as snow in God's eyes, and truly made innocent by Jesus' sacrifice. You'd think God would do everything He could to keep them safe, being truly innocent now, wouldn't you?

But look throughout history - the Christians in the Roman coliseum, all throughout Asia Minor and elsewhere, down through history and all over the world. God has not spared "His people" one bit of suffering. Among those "innocent people starving to death" as you put it, are believers who call out to God for help. Why doesn't He save them? I think that's a good, valid question.

I think it's because those who do not know God have a misunderstanding of what God's purpose is for our lives, and exactly what God is saving when he acts. True, there are times on this earth when God acts and literally saves people from physical calamity. Look at the biblical examples of Daniel in the lions den, or the guys who were thrown into the fire and escaped unburned. They served God's purpose to reveal himself to people at that time.

But God is in the business of granting eternal life to those who believe. This life, with is problems and suffering and what appears to be injustice and cruelty, is short and very temporary when compared with eternity. God is in the business of preparing us for that eternal life.

God promised even believers we'd have trouble, pains, and fear, just like everyone else - but to be of good cheer because Jesus has paid the price for sin, and those who trust God will escape the final judgment and live forever. It's THAT hope which makes the suffering bearable, and why the Christian faith perseveres.

So, the short answer to your question might be, I don't know the reasons why God does what He does. But because I DO believe in God, the creator of this world, and because I've seen the examples of love and generosity through Jesus dying and resurrecting to save ME, I can have faith and an actual firm, worldly assurance that God is not capricious. He is not callous or whimsical, and that everything He does has a purpose. One day, when that eternal existence begins, I'll have a better understanding.

But for now God says, trust me. Because of my own experience which proves to me God is who He says he is, I will. My hope is that many more will too.

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