Darkness closes in. It’s always been there, on the edges of my world, but I’ve kept it safely away with faith and hope, along with some denial and selective attention. I’ve focused on the light…the love of God, his final victory, goodness in people around me, beauty and tastes of joy.
Now the light has disappeared, and it’s only darkness. It’s everywhere. In our own home it’s the death of Samuel and the silence of God. In our neighborhood it’s the family whose 5th grader was just diagnosed with cancer. Their middle school son has already battled leukemia twice. This is too much pain for one family. I see darkness in the lonely, the hungry, the addicted, the victim. There are wars and famines and floods. There is brutality and abuse. The world is overrun with horrible, horrible darkness.
I find myself asking questions that have confused thousands of others before me. How can God allow this? If he hates it, if he is good, if he is powerful, how?
I know the usual answers. But I am surrounded by darkness, and they no longer satisfy me. They only worked when most of my world was light.
God, why did you take my son? It would have been better for you to take me instead.
Why have you hidden from me? I look to you for answers, but you cannot be found. You have left me when I’ve needed you the most.
You promised to be near to the brokenhearted, but I am alone and find no peace.
I wonder if God is different than I’ve believed.
I don’t doubt that God is there. Science and nature point me to something, or someone, bigger than what I see. To accept that marvelous complexity and beauty is random is too much of a stretch. I believe in a creator.
But what is the character of this creator? Beautiful and powerful, bigger than me. Those things I see.
Is he good?
I continue to get stuck on this.
He allows suffering. The Bible is clear about this, and my observations of life concur. There is a lot of suffering. He chooses to use suffering as a refining process, as a test of faith. He allows us to suffer so he will increase in glory, and to display his power. And sometimes suffering is a punishment. There might be more reasons too, but these he has acknowledged.
Is it good that God uses us, in painful ways, to promote his own glory? This seems to be what happened to Job. God wanted to show Satan just how faithful Job would be, so he allowed Job to lose everything. I admit, this story has always made me cringe. It seems dark. God comes across like a bully, and Job the victim. If God is good and just in using Job in this way, I have to reevaluate who I am in relation to who God is. This story makes me much, much smaller, and God much bigger than I find comfortable.
It’s one thing to consider these things in theory. When confronted with a taste of it, I found I wasn’t actually ready to go there. It’s easier to sing words of surrender on Sunday morning, set to a crescendo of worship music, than hold my child’s life before God with open hands. I would have failed Abraham’s test with Isaac. No, God. Not my child. That’s too much to ask. That can’t be good. I don’t want you to have full rights to my life if this is where it’s going.
How big is God? And how insignificant, exactly, am I? Am I willing to exist for his glory alone? Does God’s love make that all OK? And why in the world would God create us for his purposes, and then program us to want our own? It’s as if he designed us to be conflicted. He wrote it on our hearts to be fulfilled when we follow him, yet gave us free will to choose differently.
A set up, so he could be glorified?