IT’S THE BIBLE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
It comes from a hardcore Republican friend of mine, Tom Troyer. We’ve tussled plenty over social and political matters. Why not religious, too? Tom gets a free book for asking the question.
Here’s his question—which points to the Achilles Heel of Christianity, as far as I’m concerned:
Since God knew suffering was going to occur before it occurred, and human suffering and death were then going to also occur, why create man in the first place forcing people to suffer when suffering need not happen in the first place?
Three “what ifs” come to mind.
1. What if that question is presumptuous? What if God didn’t know humanity was going stink up the place like this?
I know that a Bible songster sang the tune, “His understanding is beyond comprehension!” (Psalm 147:5).
But what if it’s not unlimited?
I’ve read the Bible passages folks use to argue that God knows everything. I haven’t read any that hit the ball out of the park. The best Bible outtakes come from poets and songwriters. And it’s sometimes hard to know how literally to take a lyric.
2. So what if God knew? Does that mean we have a right to blame him for our mess?
Many of our troubles are from our own doing, it seems to me. I, for one, live in Tornado Alley in a house built by a cheapskate crook who could use a good punch in the nose by someone who wouldn’t get caught. If this house gets splintered and I get sucked up into heaven during a spring thunderstorm, the best I could hope for is that some witness to the event clears me of my dumb decision to stay here by saying they may have seen chariots of fire.
If we blame God for the dumb stuff we do because he knew it was coming and he created us anyway, we should probably stop making babies. Right now. Don’t be doing that thing.
We bring a kid into this screwy world and we know good and well they’ll have hell to pay. Life will squish them through the ringer, and in time lay them out flat on their back, dead.
Yet we bring them to life anyhow.
If we keep making life like that, we probably shouldn’t blame God for making us.
Besides, I’m glad I get to suck air. Glad I get to spend a few years walking the trail with my family and friends. Glad I get to watch Star Trek movies most of my life; may I live long and prosper. Or at least live long. Make it so.
3. What if God wants us to suffer?
We think of ourselves mostly as physical beings, I believe. We’re zeroed in on physical stuff like getting comfy, complaining when it hurts, having a good time when it doesn’t.
Maybe God thinks of us more as spiritual beings who are somehow getting into shape through our experiences on the planet.
What does suffering do but bring out the best in caring souls?
A buddy of mine in my Bible study group has multiple sclerosis. Early stages. When he told us about the diagnosis several years ago, our group got up from our chairs, surrounded him and his wife, and we prayed for God to help him. I said, “Heck with helping him. Heal him.”
Yeah, well that hasn’t happened. Not yet, anyhow. MS researchers, get your fannies in gear; we’re burning daylight.
A couple of weeks ago, during our Sunday Bible study meeting, my friend felt a sharp pain in his neck. He knew he had to rush home right away. An MS wave was rolling in. I was teaching the class that day. It was bitterly cold and snow-shrouded outside. As my friend and his wife rushed to leave, our class leader jumped up, too. He walked with them, helping our buddy into his car. Back in the classroom, the rest of us stopped everything to pray for him.
Suffering is a soul magnet. It pulls us together.
I know it feels like it’s tearing us apart. Sometimes that’s exactly what it’s doing to our bodies.
But in my experience, which is certainly limited, that’s not what it does to who we really are—to the spirit that lives within this body.
When I have suffered, souls have come to my rescue.
When I see people within my reach suffering, my best thought is for them. My best move is toward them.
Suffering is a rotten, no-good, stinky thing. I get it.
But I’m not all that certain God saw it coming.
Even if he did, I’m glad to be here in the middle of it.
While I’m here, why not do something about it?
If any MS researcher is reading this, stop. Get back to work. Thank you very much.