By Karen Ho, Yale-NUS College ’17 – See bio
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!
– John Donne
I’d just like to start by saying that this post isn’t meant to prove God’s existence to non-believers; I’m not trying to prove anything in this post. This post is meant to provide a personal, Christian viewpoint for believers who are struggling to find God’s love and care in a world of pain.
A friend of mine mentioned how in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many people questioned how there could be a God in this world who would allow something like this to happen. How could twenty innocent, potential-filled children and six wonderful, selfless adults die at the hands of one murderer while God simply watched on?
I think it’s important for the believer to remember that while God always has a good plan for us, He also loves us enough to give us free will. Because we are His children, He gives us the liberty to make our own decisions. And free will is something He has given all of us; it’s a gift that He won’t take away. And many times, our free will clashes with someone else’s will or even God’s will, and we can’t help the fact that some use that will very destructively; that a man used his free will to destroy innocent, beautiful lives. And God let the consequences of that man’s will play out.
What about natural disasters? I’m not going to try to justify it; I’m not going to pretend I know.
Then again, what is death but the ushering into a new life? I like to picture us as fish in a tank. When a person dies, it’s like God takes a fish out of that tank and simply transfers him to another tank – the transition from the mortal to the eternal. And all of us in the first tank are distraught, because our friend is gone forever. God, why did you allow an innocent one of us to be taken away?
But he isn’t gone. He’s simply in a different tank, one we can’t see.
Death is definitely destructive in other ways. The shortest verse in the Bible – “Jesus wept” – follows the death of Lazarus. Jesus was the visible image of of God on Earth, the full example of His love. And even though he knew that death was simply a transit into eternity, He cried at the thought of losing his friend here. Jesus, the full representative of God, cried upon a friend’s death. Death destroys human relationships, and God Himself understands our pain of losing a loved one; it’s just important to remember that it never ends there.
I pray that even when we’re distraught and dealing with the immense pain of losing people we love, He reminds us that their real lives have only just begun.
There are a lot of related but separate issues, like that of poverty / suffering, salvation and the age-old question: “Why would a caring, loving God allow evil and pain?” All three issues are entire separate discussions and it would take me too long to type out. Maybe I’ll talk about them in another post someday, but I guess I can just give a really brief summary of my thoughts on those issues.
On poverty and suffering: I think all of us are born with a life’s test, something we struggle with our whole lives. For some of us, it’s emotional vulnerability. It could be things that many people don’t see as wrong but might struggle with in their faith walk, like greed, selfishness and pride. Maybe it’s the struggle to be a filial child, or a responsible parent, or to stay true to yourself in a corrupt world. Maybe it’s lust. And for others, this test could be sickness, poverty, disability. These ‘tests’ are a lot more tangible and obvious, but they’re a test of hope and character, too.
Salvation: Christians believe that Jesus is the way to salvation. Now, I know that what I’m going to say next might draw a lot of questions and some might call me a blasphemer or whatever, but I personally don’t believe that God will look at a non-Christian whose heart was full of kindness, love, selflessness and faith in a greater hope and say, “I’m sorry; you were a great person, but you didn’t believe in Christ and therefore you’re going to Hell.” After all, aren’t we all His children? Weren’t we all made in His image? (If you then ask “Well then, why become a Christian?”, Christ is a lot more than a ticket to heaven, and well, Christianity works for me; Jesus’s authority and existence is real to me.)
Classic question about evil and pain: There’s so much more to God than our comfort. He is so much more than a needs-meeter. I think most of us agree that God’s more interested in our character than in our comfort. Remember Job? God allowed everything – family, possessions, health – to be taken away from him, but He had a much greater purpose for him. Remember Judas? God allowed Judas to choose to betray Jesus and cause Jesus’s death – but there was a greater purpose, and Judas’s betrayal became His way of elevating Jesus “to the place of highest honour”.
These issues and more will take forever to discuss, and I’m not planning to delve into them in greater detail right now. This post isn’t meant to justify my faith or justify God; I just hope it brought an alternative point-of-view to any believer (or curious non-believer) who struggles with questions like I do.