Why God Allows Suffering: A Hypothetical Conversation

If God allows people an opportunity to defend themselves on Judgment Day, this is one way I imagine the conversation to go (I say this with all reservation about putting words in God’s mouth):

GOD: You did a lot of sin down there.

PEOPLE: You’re blaming me for that?

GOD: You’re the one who did it.

PEOPLE: Well, then Satan made me do it.

GOD: I don’t recall telling you to listen to Satan.

PEOPLE: OK, but scientists told me my genes made me do it.

GOD: I don’t recall telling you you had to listen to genes.

PEOPLE: But John Calvin told me you made me do sin for your glory.

GOD: Seriously? I don’t recall telling you to listen to Calvin.

PEOPLE: Well, who were we supposed to listen to?

GOD: You were supposed to listen to me.

PEOPLE: Yeah, well, we would have, but you were always ruining our fun. All those “Thou shalt nots” and so forth.

GOD: I told you those things because I love you and wanted you to avoid pain.

PEOPLE: Yeah, right. Nice spin there. #AlternativeFacts #FakeNews

GOD: #No. That’s pretty much what I told you when I gave you those commands–love is the fulfilling of the law.

PEOPLE: We just wanted to be free. We can’t be free with you dumping commands on us all the time. Why do you have a problem with us being free?

GOD: I have no problem with you being free. You’re the ones who keep bringing yourselves under someone else’s control and saying you have no choice. I gave you freewill.

PEOPLE: Yeah, well, we don’t get that either. Why did you allow sin in the first place?

GOD: It’s part of freedom.

PEOPLE: Why couldn’t you have eliminated evil and suffering though? How can you talk about love and yet sit indifferently by and let us suffer?

GOD: I was not indifferent to evil and suffering. I told you not to do evil because evil brings suffering. All you had to do was listen to me.

PEOPLE: Yeah, but if all we could do is listen to you, we wouldn’t be free!

GOD: I’m aware of that. You’re the ones saying you want to be free. I let you be free. Now you complain because you get the consequences of being free.

PEOPLE: But why couldn’t we be free without suffering?

GOD: Because freedom means you don’t have to listen to me, and I’m the Creator, the God of order. When you break the order; stuff breaks.

PEOPLE: So, what you’re saying is that you gave us our freedom, and then let us suffer under those consequences? You just let us rot in our suffering?

GOD: I joined in your suffering. That whole Jesus and the cross thing. I showed you I still loved you. I showed you I could restore all the pain of your sinful freedom. But you persisted in your sinful choices, complaining about me the whole way, and even making up doctrines to blame me for your rebellion.

PEOPLE: Well, that was dumb of us.

GOD: I agree. Remember that part where I said “every mouth will be stopped?” That happens now.

PEOPLE:

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Manic-Depressive Christianity

Over my years as a pastor I have worked with several people who were bi-polar. This is sometimes referred to as being Manic Depressive.

The Manic phase refers to ideas of superiority, taking over the world, on top of it all, and looking down on all the losers around you.

The Depressive state refers to, well, being depressed. The world has stomped me, there is no hope, no reason to continue, I will go enjoy my favorite reality drowning sin.

The Depressed state is replaced with the Manic state, the Manic replaced with the Depressed, and around and around it goes. Each stage is an over-reaction followed by another over-reaction in the opposite direction. It’s one thing to observe it from the outside, it’s another thing to be stuck in the cycle.

There’s another brand of Manic Depressive out there too, beyond human psychology: Manic Depressive Christianity.

When people are down, the Church shoves happy verses at them: all things work together for good, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, all things are possible with God.

The depressed person goes away chanting these out of context phrases, bucked up by the happy sentiments, they go out in the power of the Spirit to conquer the world. We are more than conquerors after all! Rah-Rah, go get em, boys!

After a couple weeks of exhausting one’s self in uber-happy Christian out of context mantra chanting that has not made any difference or taken over any world, depression sets in.

The Church hands the depressed girl the happy verses. The happy verses are repeated. The depressed girl is bucked up. Rah-rah! Go win one for the Gipper! Only to find out the Gipper died a long time ago and everything stinks.

It’s a discouraging to watch people stuck in this cycle. Facebook is the greatest venue for watching this cycle in action. People post way too much stuff, revealing way too many personal things.

If you have many Christians on your Facebook page, you probably have two or three of these people. One day everything is awesome, and them and God are doing it all! Next week everything is horrible, struggling, pain, failure. Nest week, posting pictures of sunsets with out of context biblical phrases. Next week, on top of the world with Jesus! Repeat.

I get depressed for what the Church does to people. Instead of chanting out of context phrases from verses, rest on the solid rock of God’s Word.

Teaching the Bible is not easy. The Bible is very long. There are many things “hard to be understood,” says the Apostle Peter.

Most churches skip the hard work and settle for self-improvement and bucking up people with happy thoughts torn out of context.

All things do work together for good–and the good, according to the context, includes suffering and being counted as sheep for the slaughter. The good is conformity to Christ; not worldly achievements.

We are more than conquerors, because one day we will be dead and we will have lost our lives, but we will have gained Christ.

All things are possible with God. And, based on the context of this verse, the impossible that will be made possible is rich people will give away their money to the poor, not you getting the girl, or the job, or the new car.

You can do all things through Christ, but the all things don’t mean overcoming obstacles to worldly pleasure and enjoyment. The all things, based on the context, means being content in whatever state you are in regardless of your present state of worldly pleasure and enjoyment.

But the Church doesn’t teach this any more. Too depressing. Not happy enough. Who would come and listen to that? Well, not too many people, but preaching a false message of hope to hopeless people only leads to hopelessness.

Many may not listen to the Bible’s message, but those who do will at least be helped. Changing the Bible’s message so more will hear you, only makes you accountable for destroying those souls by your false, incomplete message.

I pray for the Church. I pray for those stuck in the Manic-Depressive cycle and those stuck in the Christian version of it, too.