Thursday, November 20, 2008

response to text messages from Sunday, November 16th

alright, i know i promised these monday but they are questions about the most difficult question you can ask 'how can God allow suffering?' and even after thinking about my responses for a few days i think any answer this short is incomplete.

the questions came up during a message i gave last sunday at visio dei. you can download the podcast here. i got three text messages from the same person. in my response below, these texts are in italics.

“No matter how much silence you give to god, the one question he never answers is “why,” and that is the hardest question to not be answered.”

This is why Ecclesiastes is such a great book, because it doesn’t duck the toughest questions. One of the passages from next week’s message reads:
“When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover, and though the wise man should say, ‘I know,’ he cannot discover. For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God.”
Ecclesiastes 8:16-9:1
This is his conclusion, we can’t know. And he’s not going to gloss over that, but he’s not going to let it stop him in his tracks either.

“How can anyone be thankful for that emptiness? It’s that feeling that makes me think God is a kid with an ant farm. I really don’t want to be an ant.”

I don’t think he’s advocating being thankful for the emptiness of not knowing why. I think he’s advocating being thankful for all the good things that you have in life, that according to him, are from God. I think part of the message of the book is not to let the things you’re uncertain of keep you from following the ones you are certain of. And I think the emptiness is there because of the reality of sin in our world and it the reason that all creation, including us, “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:22-23)

“I am not even sure he answered the question for jesus, and if he won’t answer for his own son… and that makes it hard not to hate god.”

Did He need to answer the question for Jesus? Didn’t Jesus already know why it was all happening? Wasn’t Jesus there when all the prophecies were spoken concerning the suffering He would endure for our sake? And Jesus certainly didn’t hate the Father for not answering, Jesus loved the Father because He trusted Him completely and submitted Himself to the Father completely and knew that God was up to good and not evil. Ultimately, I think that’s what this comes down to, trusting that God is smarter than we are and that God loves even when it doesn’t seem like it to us. I’m not saying that’s easy, and in midst of deep suffering this is an insensitive answer, but I think it’s the truth.


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