‘How can anyone believe in a loving God when there is so much suffering in the world?!’
I’ve heard it said more times than I care to mention.
I have friends who look me in the eye, shake their heads almost imperceptibly and ask me how someone who is clearly rational and intelligent can fall for ‘the oldest con there is’ – they call it religion.
I tell them that my life experience must be different from theirs. My life experience is one of being loved by God – even at those times when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to love me.
So, how do I balance that with all the brutality and brokenness?
I didn’t always see eye to eye with my parents, but I suspect that they actually did a pretty good job of bringing me up. Generally they did their best in the absence of any realistic instruction guide – battling with my numerous childhood ailments, dislike of conformist education and my argumentative teenage years. I arrived at adulthood alive, capable of holding cutlery in a publicly acceptable fashion, I could answer the telephone, write a CV, keep a job, hold a conversation and, perhaps most importantly, I was able to make rational decisions for myself.
Judging from my own experience as a mother, that last one – developing the power to make rational decisions for oneself – must have been the hardest.
We long as parents for our children to learn from our mistakes, and hence avoid the pain of making their own. But that’s just not how people learn.
We learn from burnt fingers, skinned knees and spilt milk.
As good parents it is essential to allow our children to run too fast and climb too high. They have to be allowed to ‘take risks’, and they have to have the opportunity to fail. Our parental job is simply to assess the risks and try to keep them within sensible parameters. And then to pick up the pieces.
And that is exactly how our loving Father in Heaven handles us.
As long as we consult Him, love Him, include Him in our lives, He will comfort us, counsel us, help us pick up the pieces and encourage us.
If we ignore Him, turn away from Him and don’t accept the loving relationship He offers us, then the inevitable will happen. It wasn’t ever a threat, it was simply a statement of inevitability.
That’s why the world is in the mess we have arrived at today.
God loves us more than we can understand; He’s warned us of the outcome of our actions, sent us prophets, signs and wonders, His own Son in human form and, ultimately, His Holy Spirit – isn’t it time we stopped blaming Him for what we’ve turned our world into, and started to invite Him back into it?
Thoughts behind the song ‘I Just Love You’.