Some may be comforted by the idea that God controls the day you are going to die to be with Him in heaven. Personally, I do not like the logical or relational baggage that goes with such a thought. You may want to reconsider certain beliefs if it is causing distance between you and God. God is not responsible for all the evil in the world that causes suffering and leads to premature deaths. Death was not God’s original intent but perhaps a Godsend, so we can be reunited with those who are murdered at the hands of others. Just because God does not control every event in our life does not mean God is not in control.
People say “God will take him or her on His timetable.” This implies God keeps some older folks alive longer for whatever reason. One may assume if they are in a great deal of pain, God is keeping them alive to discipline them or that God is not merciful. Families may begin to question God why their parent must suffer and someone’s relative dies without much pain or suffering. Many may be tempted to ask “why” rather than more helpful questions in times of suffering.
If you believe God controls the exact day one dies, this logically raises questions about when people die for reasons other than old age. Did God really appoint a person to be killed by a drunk driver on such and such day? For some that is just too much to bear. Now, don’t get me wrong. God knows a lot and is present everywhere. God knows a driver is drunk and is headed a certain way where someone is walking. He knows physics. He created it. Why doesn’t he stop it?
If God stopped all suffering to His preference as a loving Parent, then that would just make a mockery out of freedom. We would not be satisfied until God stopped all suffering. God is not a Parent who enjoys seeing His children suffer any more than we do as a parent. There are understandable reasons why God created freedom and why He allows consequences of such a decision to play out. The truth is if God answers all my prayers and I never suffer, I am not necessarily a better person for it. If I could interfere everyday my children experience any suffering, that isn’t necessarily the most loving thing to do.
There are answers to suffering that don’t imply God is controlling, or that God causes suffering, or that God is pulling strings in heaven to teach us a lesson. We can focus on God being with us in the midst of suffering rather than why God isn’t interfering.
What was Jesus suggesting when He told us to not resist evil people and love our enemies? [Mt 5:38-48] We must be careful to not misinterpret Jesus’ words so to misguide or discourage others. Dissecting the meaning of the word love is not the solution. Jesus’ message of love was radical. Jesus didn’t want His followers to always give “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” as is our natural reaction toward our enemies. This law was meant to protect the weak and ensure justice was fair, but Jesus followers do not necessarily always demand their rights.
Jesus surely is using hyperbolic language in Mt 5:39 to make a point. Jesus says if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, give them the other cheek as well. Jesus would not advise a wife to accept continual abuse by her husband. When robbers invade one’s house, one can take action to protect their family. Nations can defend themselves against the attacks of enemies or seek to protect the rights of others. Loving one’s enemies does not mean always responding passively as Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.
Jesus obviously did not always retaliate. Jesus’ resurrection proved He was the Son of God, but He did not always go on the attack when accused falsely. Jesus is challenging His listeners to respond differently to one’s enemies when appropriate. Any one can love back those who love you. [v.46] Loving one’s enemies means not returning “like behavior for like behavior.” Loving one’s enemies’ means being prepared to forgive others if they confess their sins, though we may not think or feel they deserve it. Most of us would not be the people we are today if not for God’s radical grace. Keep in mind when a person claims to be a Christ follower yet they are not receptive to the loving confrontation of others, tough love may be necessary. Sin sometimes in the early church was dealt with strongly in hopes of changing minds. [Mt 18: 15-19]
Don’t judge others how they best love their enemies. Let’s encourage each another to follow how God has convicted them to react to their enemies. Christians are responsible to God and not another person’s convictions. There may be a time for justice, tough love, or grace. Your enemy can be anyone mad at you. Road raggers are our enemies. Let’s not respond similarly though they may deserve it. Let’s not seek revenge but leave that in the hands of the Almighty and government. The situation may require we protect ourselves at times but let’s continue to pray and go extra miles with our enemies to possibly inspire them to change. Some may die for a good human being. Jesus died for His enemies to persuade and convince all of His love for us. Let’s follow in Jesus’ footsteps to change our world for the better.
We may accept that God does not cause suffering and that God allows suffering by creating freedom, but we may still struggle with why God doesn’t interfere more with suffering. I believe some answers are more satisfactory than other answers. There are rational and relational answers as to why evil and suffering exists even though God is in control. There are answers to suffering that don’t imply God causes suffering or that God is pulling strings in heaven to teach us a lesson. Satisfactory answers can enable us to focus on God being with us in the midst of suffering rather than why God isn’t interfering. It is clear to most that God does not interfere with a great deal of suffering through miracles.
Jesus’ miracles only turned heads not hearts. The truth of the matter is sufferings, not pleasures, is what changes the most lives. We depend more on God in time in times of adversity than prosperity. God doesn’t ask for dependence for selfish reasons. Those who depend on God the most are less selfish. Can you imagine a world where all treated family and friends like they want to be treated? Jesus came as a suffering servant than ruling king for He understood that was best how to influence in the long run. God not interfering with suffering all the time may be necessary to change a person’s heart after sin entered the world. Suffering may be the only megaphone that can reach people about what really matters in life.
When evil was chosen suffering became part of God’s story to lead us of our own volition to a paradise appropriate for free beings. It isn’t always wise to prevent our children from suffering consequences, whether self-inflicted or the result of a fallen world. Suffering enables us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. We are more likely to look to God, who desires our everlasting happiness, during adversity than prosperity. God doesn’t interfere to allow suffering as a megaphone to distract us from our own selfishness.
Did Martin Luther King have to suffer to move the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry? Jesus’ personal sufferings rather than His miracles changed more hearts. Personal tragedies or undeserved suffering can make us more sensitive to others. Undeserved insults can make us more sensitive to others in similar situations. Sufferings enable us to be trusted by others, because we have “walked in their shoes.” God doesn’t interfere to allow suffering as a megaphone to enable us to better serve others.
Should parents never have children because they may inflict suffering on others or could potentially suffer at the hands of others? God can be accused of not always intervening miraculously, but He does not provoke evil actions or pick and choose who may suffer more than others. God interferes by trying to change the souls and ways of people. God will hold our hand during difficult times and work to bring good from evil in us and for the world, if we desire and are able to receive His help. Our time here on earth cannot compare to our time in eternity after death. Justice delayed does not mean justice will not be served one day. God is the perfection of the human parents we have always desired. God intervenes in suffering but perhaps not in the way we think He should sometimes.