“The answer is to run to God, not away from Him.”
It was a casual conversation with a relative stranger, but it quickly turned to a topic I find myself discussing with people on a regular basis.
“I was talking to a friend,” this person said, “and she asked me, ‘If there’s a God, how can He allow what’s going on in my life right now? There’s just so much trouble.’”
Then this person offered an insight that you don’t often hear in our culture today. “What I told her was, I’ve had a lot of tragic events in my life over the last few years, and I’ve learned that if I let them, they can shape me into the person I want to be.”
A preacher couldn’t have said it better.
What followed was a discussion of Paul’s words in Romans 8, concerning our purpose in life. We talked about what it meant to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (v. 29), and how we, along with all of creation, are groaning as we wait for God to set things right (v.v. 22-25). We concluded that when we are experiencing life’s challenges we need to be constantly reminded of God’s root motive—His love for us (v.v. 35-39).
I have these types of conversations often. When people ask, “Why didn’t God stop this?” or “Why did God allow that?” they are inevitably questioning the very basis of God’s relationship with humanity. What is it built upon?
Sometimes I think it would have been easier if God had chosen another way to relate to us than to seek a loving relationship. For those of us who believe in God as He is revealed in the Bible, we know He is all-powerful. There is no question God could have decided from day one to use that power to control His creation. Imagine a robotic relationship, where the Creator’s will is carried out only because we are completely controlled by God. If God had chosen to relate to us in that way, we would never have experienced war, injustice, disease or broken relationships. We would also never have known loving relationships characterized by selfless service, worship, or any genuine, deep human emotion.
But in His infinite wisdom, God gives us the ability to choose. He does not control our lives in order to ensure ideal outcomes. He invites us to experience loving relationships with Him and with each other. Of course, this means that we also have the ability to choose otherwise. God created us to know right from wrong. We have the opportunity, based on our choices, to know the most meaningful moments with God and other people, but also to know the depths of hurt, hatred and depravity.
Throughout history, people’s positive responses to our Creator’s loving invitation have led to many expressions of beauty, acts of service and loving relationships. Many of us know the joy of God’s presence and the pleasure of being in right relationship with Him. We have also experienced God’s power to reconcile and heal our human relationships, creating the loving relationships He intended for us.
Sadly, humanity’s rejection of God’s invitation has led to alienation, both from God and from one another. It has resulted in destructive behaviour and the tragic outcomes we are all too familiar with. At the news of another natural disaster, senseless shooting, or terrorist massacre, people shake their heads in disbelief. And the “Why, God?” questions keep coming.
The answer is to run to God, not away from Him. We let His love and power touch the core of our lives. We seek to love our neighbours—even when they are our enemies. As our Lord did, we overcome evil with good. We choose the way of love, not the way of coercion or force. We live our lives as expressions of His righteousness, justice and mercy.
By His perfect power, God does work through all things to draw us into a deeper, loving, more trusting relationship with Him. All through the Scriptures, His appeal to humanity is for us to willingly respond to Him. I invite you to pray this prayer and ponder the following verses from Romans 8.
God, our Creator, we thank You for choosing the way of loving relationship with us rather than that of forceful control. In the midst of our groaning, we lean into Your love and Your purpose for us. For Your glory, Amen.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).