A few nights ago, I was asking God a question I’ve been coming back to frequently:
“If You love us, why do You allow bad things to happen?”
Each time I ask this, He gives me a more and more detailed answer–because each time I ask this, I’m asking from a different concern in my heart. I used to wonder if that question implied God was not trustworthy, but I’ve learned over the last few years that He is absolutely worthy of my trust. Lately I’ve found myself asking this from a pain perspective, because I know this question bothers so many people I love, and I simply haven’t had an answer for it.
So I asked Him, again:
“Why do bad things happen? How can You watch children suffer? Doesn’t it hurt? Why would You do this?”
And instead of a pat theological answer, my soul began to fill with sadness–but the emotions weren’t my own; imagine the presence of someone in agony who comes and stands beside you, their pain seeping into your bones.
I didn’t do this.
I paused, suddenly listening.
I didn’t create My world and My people for this. But I am fixing it, and it won’t be this way forever. Yes, it hurts Me.
Then God brought a memory to mind that I hadn’t recalled in years:
Growing up, my sister and I had a large Fisher Price dollhouse we played with frequently. We’d spend hours setting up, arranging the people and the furniture just so, making everything perfect. We couldn’t begin to officially play until everything was in its place. The furniture went here, the people went there, the pets went here, the accessories went there. On and on we went, until everything was good to go.
When we played with the dollhouse, we were basically reenacting Genesis 1, creating like our creator. But all the hard work of setting up was so we could stop setting up and start playing. My Jesus-loving, scholarly friend Rachel Booth Smith has noted how when we read Genesis 2, we tend to miss the focal point of Day Seven, when God rested. In a recent article for Christianity Today, she wrote,
So what did it mean when God rested in Genesis? I used to imagine a long nap or a whew as God collapsed into a recliner. I was more than a little off. It actually means—as its first readers would have understood—that God ceased creating and began his reign.
In creation accounts, rest is best understood as an enthronement. It’s like the king sitting down to rule his country or a Star Trek captain sitting in the command chair saying, “Engage.”
God had finished His work, and it was all so good. His world was good. His people were good. His people were made to do good things. He was enthroned, with the world in peace. Like my sister and me with our dollhouse, it was a world where only good things happened, because that was the creator’s intent.
Not all of my childhood toys were as creative and open-ended, however. Another thing we played with was a brightly colored spiky Bumble Ball. Apparently you can buy this “vintage motorized bouncing 90s toy” on eBay for just $75 today, if you’re so inclined. According to the package, the Bumble Ball “…bounces and bounces! It just won’t quit!”
One summer, our cousins came to visit. We were not used to boys and how boys played, and we were horrified when they set our motorized Bumble Ball atop our beloved dollhouse. Furthermore, they laughed as the just-so dolls and their home jostled and jolted about, the intentional care and design falling apart.
Perfection was destroyed. Chaos left its mark.
In our world today, we no longer look around and say, “Wow! It’s so good to be here. This place is awesome.” Instead, beauty and harmony are marred by disaster and destruction, trauma and tragedy. We shake our fist at God and say, “If you are loving and good, why do You let these things happen?”
But like the aftermath of the dollhouse and the Bumble Ball, we can’t blame the innocent creators who spent hours lovingly putting together a beautiful world–we have to recognize that the destruction came from an outside force.
Because God is good, and He is love. But love is given freely, not forced or earned. Here’s what we struggle to understand:
In order for us to be capable of receiving love and loving others, we had to have the option to not choose it. Whenever we choose what God has said is not-good, we find ourselves at odds with God’s truly good system.
In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a whole world to enjoy, with only one command: Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God knew about good and evil, and He knew that knowing about evil meant people would have to experience evil. Because God is holy, evil cannot occupy the same space He does. In disobeying that one command, in choosing the one not-good thing, Adam and Eve chose to know what evil was. Sin entered through disobedience, and their sin would cast them away from His presence.
That option to not choose God’s love and goodness left the world experiencing sin–which is devoid of love, filled with selfish pride and disorder. Sin always destroys us and those around us.
And sin, like the Bumble Ball in my pristine dollhouse, destroyed everything good and left God’s perfect world in shambles. Where there was life and beauty, sin brings decay and death. Where there was order and harmony, sin brings chaos and confusion. Where relationships enjoyed closeness and intimacy, sin brings pride and selfishness.
But God is still the king.
He’s still on the throne.
And He decides to pick up the pieces and restore the broken things and make His world new again.
So when bad things happen and we cry out angrily through our tears, “God, why did You let this happen? Where were You?”
His heart is broken, too.
“I didn’t do this,” He whispers gently, “but I’m already fixing it. It won’t be this way forever.”
God set forth His own plan to rescue us and free us from the burdens sin puts on us. Our shame from sin leaves us trying to earn God’s favor and love, but God said, “No, I have a better way.”
Instead of destroying His sin-chained people, He would destroy our sin without destroying us. God sends Jesus, His own Son, fully God and fully man, into the world to die for our sins. Where sin left a deficit in our holiness; a holy God made full payment. The debt we owed was paid, our record of wrongs destroyed.
In this unbelievable transaction, it was the Holy for the unholy. The Sinless for the sinners. The Pure and Perfect for the prodigal.
God entered into our pain, suffered for us and suffers with us, to show that He hears us, sees us, and knows how hard this is. God, with whom sin cannot dwell, entered into our broken world as a human, to experience what we’re going through, to feel pain, to die. Unlike Adam and Eve, God didn’t have to experience evil to know about it–and He chose to experience it fully. He entered into the sin-cursed world, to take its curse away. When God sent Adam and Eve away from Eden, He told them, “One day, I will restore this.”
They just didn’t know it would be God Himself sacrificed on the altar, His body bloodied for ours. The first death in the world was an animal slain to provide coverings for Adam and Eve’s newfound shame in their nakedness. As someone (I think it was Elisabeth Elliot) once said, “Saving our skin results in skinning another.” They didn’t know it would be their Creator who would die to break the curse from their sin.
And now, we lie on our beds after another day of heartbreaks, headaches, and self-harm, giving God the middle finger and blaming Him for this mess: “Why don’t You care about me?” Then we roll over and pick up our phones and scroll, without waiting for Him to answer. But when we put the phone down, turn the noise off, and sit in the thick silence, He begins to speak.
Do you see how much I love you? I withhold no good thing from you–not even my beloved Son, not even Myself. I see your children hurting–I watched My child suffer, and My heart breaks for you.
Everything good I have, I am giving to you–all of Me will cost you nothing, all you have to do is receive it. Stay with Me.
I am good. I’ve already begun restoring everything broken and hurting–complete restoration is coming soon. Stay with Me.
I broke sin’s curse, and I will destroy sin forever–soon. Stay with Me.
You can become victorious over sin now, I have so much power to give you! I created you to do good things! Stay with Me.
He is still good, as He has been since day one. And one day soon His world will be perfect again, without any threat possible. For once we have been far from God and restored, once we know just how far His love pursues us and fights to free us, there can never again be anything that could take us from Him.
It’s still Day 7, and God is still on His throne. But He is not resting until His world is put back in order. When the Jews thought the Sabbath was holier than God Himself, Jesus told them, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.”
He is slow to anger, and loyal in His love for us–He doesn’t give up on us and pursue another hobby or a better, shinier thing.
He will punish sin and destroy it forever. But He is also patient, giving us time to return to Him, so He doesn’t have to destroy us with our sin. He longs to free us from it, but it’s still our choice. We have to let go of our right to be the ruler of our life, and trust the God who has never withheld anything good from us.
Today He is still reaching for you; tomorrow is not guaranteed. He’s coming soon.
Now is the time of His favor.
Now is the day of salvation.
God will make His world good again. That’s the world we were made for. That’s the world He will return His people to.
Restoration is coming. Stay with Him.
Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash
Click below to read the full article from Rachel Booth Smith:
If Troubled, Look for God’s Comfort. If Restless, Look for His Lordship. | Christianity Today