When you witness or experience senseless suffering, either you absorb the pain and bear the scars, or you shut down and stop feeling altogether.
I have nightmares most nights. They come in two forms. Some are reliving what I experienced. Others are revisiting what I witnessed. The former leave me nauseous and edgy. The latter provoke anger at myself. And God. Not because He doesn’t seem to care about my past suffering. No, what keeps me up at night and puts a knot in my chest is wondering why so many innocent endure unspeakable evil.
Why was the child I loved like a son molested numerous times? Why do countless little girls live in brutal abuse as sex slaves? Why–I could go on for hours.
Don’t tell me the line about, “It’s because God gave man a free will.” If you or I saw a child being beaten in the middle of the street and walked by without helping, we would be wrong and twisted and evil. God sees evil every day and does not stop it. And God is called good? Ultimately, this question is the root of my anger at Him.
I’m thankful God can take my questions–and my anger.
As usual, I turn to C. S. Lewis for help wrestling with the deepest questions. Two statements seemed meant just for me:
“Conjectures as to why God does what He does are probably of no more value than my dog’s ideas of what I am up to when I sit and read.” – “Reflections on the Psalms”
“If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” – “Mere Christianity”
From my perspective, even if what Lewis says is true, this doesn’t let God off the hook (or, it keeps “God on the Dock” as Lewis would say). If free will is the only way for man to ever possess goodness, what does that have to do with God, who is goodness, allowing the innocent to be tormented? Doesn’t our sense of justice, of mercy, of good and evil come from Him and being made in His image? At the moment, I’d take a world free from suffering children even if it meant a lack of joy for the rest of us.
Perhaps that is illogical and irrational, but my wounds from absorbing the pain are raw. I vacillate between feeling and numbness. I’ll let the emotions enter, the pain becomes unbearable, and I shut down. And so the cycle continues.
I’m thankful God can take my questions–and my anger. I’m relieved I don’t have to understand or figure all this out today. The nightmares may never stop. I may not find peace or answers. Right now I know only two responses to my anger and pain.
1. Continue wrestling with God. Pray. Cry. Feel. Alternate between wracking my mind to understand, and pushing it to the back burner to simmer.
2. “Do justice” (Micah 6:8). You and I are God’s agents of justice. Despite my feelings stating otherwise, the Bible says God sees the suffering of innocents–and cares. He knows.
Then He tells us to do something about it.
Note: The Just Life has published an excellent study on God’s heart for justice.