February 11, 1992
A child is murdered. An arsonist burns a home to the ground. A car accident cripples a newlywed. And we, even we who believe in a sovereign God who controls all things, are at a loss to explain our out-of-control world.
Oh, we Christians say God has His reasons... but our pat answers offer little comfort to the child’s parents, the family who has lost everything, or the couple whose hopes and dreams have turned to perpetual pain and wheelchairs. They cry for a way out and question — how can a sovereign, loving God allow such horrid things to happen?
When in pain, our ability to reason often abandons us, yet reason has shown me some new ideas about pain and suffering. For one thing, I used to think pain was always something to avoid, but isn’t some pain necessary? Without it, no one would go to the doctor to have broken bones set, or yank their hand off a hot iron, or avoid sharp knife blades. All pain is uncomfortable, but not all pain is evil.
Furthermore, I used to consider death as utterly bad, however it does have two very practical purposes. One of them, admittedly heartless but nonetheless true, is that if every man, woman, child, dog, cat, and goldfish that ever lived still lived, there would be no breathing space left.
Our real problem is with UNWANTED pain and the UNAVOIDABLE separation and suffering involved with death. We want God to intervene, to change things so we don’t hurt any more. But reason says for that to happen, God would have to change the nature of the way the world works, more precisely, the principle of cause and effect.
Cause and effect makes life predictable. We flip a switch and a light goes on; drink some water and our thirst is satisfied; sleep all night and wake up refreshed. However, if cause and effect could no longer be relied on, we would never be sure what would happen. They light may go on, but then again, it might not.
Imagine the chaos of a world without this principle. We could never be sure about anything. Would living with unpredictability would more tolerable than living without pain? The pain of consequences at least keeps most of us from inadvertently destroying ourselves.
Our prayers often demand God to change our situation or take away our distresses but we forget one more thing: without pain to keep us in check, we probably would do even worse things to each other than we do. Actually, if we are going to demand anything of God, maybe it should be a solution for sin. After all, sin causes death (“The wages of sin is death...” Romans 6:23) and a large percentage of human pain and suffering.
Actually, God has provided a solution for sin and it relates to this whole issue. Follow this carefully: those who seek His forgiveness receive a changed life and an attitude that desires to alleviate pain rather than inflict it. However, God does not change the cause/effect principle. If we sin, someone suffers, even though God can use that for our good, to draw us closer to Him. Instead, God created another world — His full and final solution to the misery and pain of this world. It is a place where we can live forever in the pain-free environment we wish we could have here. Of it, the Bible says, “God will wipe away every tear... there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying... no more pain, for the former things (including the principle of cause and effect) have passed away.”
That is where the second practical purpose of death comes in. Death is the process by which we enter that perfect, eternal place. Without it, we would be stuck here. So, listen to what Jesus said, “I go and prepare a place for you and will come again and receive you to Myself... I am the way...” the way out...