"I can't understand why God would allow...."
Many of us have expressed this, finishing the sentence with personal disappointments, reversals and tragedies: a young person you know succumbing to cancer, your own marriage lying dead in the water, your son or daughter rejecting everything you as parents stood for.
Nearly all us have thought it upon being exposed to troubling events of the day: a second Fort Hood shooting, North Korean brutality on its own citizens, bombings by terrorists, a Malaysian flight vanishing into thin air.
“Why?!” we wonder.
The question isn’t meant to press meaning into the tragedy or make sense of the losses, but rather to question the existence of a so-called sovereign God who seems very, very silent. The question should be asked, and there is an answer that historically has been held by Christians through the ages. Though it may not satisfy everyone’s curiosity or questioning about any one specific event, it does provide enough perspective to not get stuck. In fact, I find the answer as breathtaking as many of the tragedies that suck the wind out of my lungs.
Let me take you just for a moment up to 10,000 feet to look around.
I'm not going to talk about that terrible incident so many years ago; it was destructive, it was wrong, it was formative, it shouldn’t have happened. In a better world––not even a perfect world––it wouldn’t have happened. But it did. But don’t fixate on that event. Let’s ascend to 10,000 feet. What do you see?
We live in a very mixed world. It is both beautiful and breathtaking as well as ugly and destructive. A person can make a strong case that in the human heart, there is goodness, and given opportunity people do some wonderful things. Creation speaks of the grandeur and glory of it's Creator. Each day can touch us and move us and fill us with wonder and gratitude. Still, every time we turn around, there is a black and red streak of evil marring the picture. Stamp it out, and it goes dormant, but eventually surfaces again like boils on fresh skin.
We are living in interim age after Jesus the Messiah has come, and before He returns to set all things right. In the New Testament, we live in "this present age", and we often look forward to "the age to come." In other words, God knows what he's doing, recognizes evil exists now, and is working against it now and will eradicate it once and for all soon at the end of this age.
Knowing this general truth doesn't mean I understand why Nazis can liquidate 6 million Jews in ovens and open graves, or why a million babies get aborted annually in the United States, or 42 million worldwide, or why governments can lie to us or Christians can be martyred or Muslims can distort truth across whole societies, or marriages can fail or gay marriages are promoted...and God seemingly does nothing.
But the the implications of this general truth biblically are not unclear.
•First, each one of us must submit to God.
God wants each one of us to come to Christ, to be forgiven, to enter into a relationship with Him, to walk the path of life following His leading, and spread the word. We do not need more legislation, more laws. We need changed hearts. Thomas Reed rightly observed, "One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation." Our lives change from the inside out when the Spirit of God takes up residence in the human heart. In The End, everyone in God's Kingdom loves Him and wants to be there; something supernatural and transformative must first happen in each person. That is what is happening right now, in this age, person by person, in the proclamation and acceptance of the Gospel.
•Next, we must take sides.
We should speak out against evil in this world, and work against it whenever and wherever we can. Bonhoeffer said, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil." In this age, we are to take sides. In my favorite Psalm, 139, in which David speaks so eloquently and beautifully of God's intimate knowledge of each one of us, he destroys the mood by declaring his desire for God to "slay the wicked" (vs. 19) and expressing his "hate" of all who stand against God (vs. 21-22). David knew that neutrality isn't necessarily godly in a world infected with wickedness. Take sides. Act justly. Speak up. Intervene.
•Finally, we must wait.
Patiently, in hope, we look to the future when what has happened inside us as believers will also happen all around us in Creation. The Day will dawn. All things will be set right. The world will change. Justice and judgment will come. The Messiah, Christ, Jesus will reign, and this age of the world, dark and exhausted, will end.
The single events of anyone's life will fit as pieces of the incredibly complex cosmic puzzle that God is putting together. Am I clear how it all fits together? Not even at 10,000 feet can I see it yet. But I will.
"And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
So will you.
What do you see now?