The dorm room was low-lit, smelled awful, and was dirty from floor to ceiling. Curtains covered the windows, the walls were dingy, and a red rug covered the floor. I shouldn’t say red, because the rug was black and worn from years of tiny shoes running in and out of the room.
My tour guide was a five-year-old boy with olive skin, dark hair, and big brown eyes. His best feature was his smile – a smile that could light up the darkest room. He also possessed a contagious laugh, one that could make even the most negative person grin.
The small boy showed me all of his possessions, but was most proud of a dingy, smelly, teddy bear. The original color of the bear was hidden by the grime that seemed to cover everything. I listened carefully, as the translator related the stories this five-year-old was telling me about his room and his best friend, the bear.
As we turned to leave, I noticed several locks on the door.
“Wow.” I said to the translator, “it’s almost like a prison!”
“Those locks are important,” he explained. “Older boys prey on the younger boys and girls. It’s not uncommon for that five-year-old holding your hand to be raped – in fact, he may have already been sexually molested.”
I didn’t say a word. I just looked down at his brown eyes, and wondered about the horror he had experienced in his life. The translator continued.
“Some of the girls get raped as well, but many others give up themselves willingly. When you don’t get any kind of love and affection – sex is at least something.”
Again, I didn’t say a word. What could I have said? My heart was broken.
There is brokenness and evil in the world. On this blog, we talk about it often. Widows and orphans who have their land stolen, young orphans in Romania who are sexually molested, children growing up in poverty without food or shoes, homeless people who die from freezing-cold temperatures. Many of us wonder why evil exists. We ask questions, and yet all of the answers seem to fall short – unable to answer the deepest doubts and fears within our hearts.
Last week, I noticed an article on CNN’s website where a mom described the reasons she is raising her children without God. Her main argument: God can’t exist, because a good God could not allow such gratuitous evil like the shooting in Newtown. Honestly, I feel the same way sometimes.
I don’t get it. I believe that the Christian worldview has the best explanation for why evil and suffering exists in the world, but that doesn’t make me feel better when I meet a five-year-old in Romania who has been sexually molested. And when I don’t feel better, I doubt – I doubt God, reason, and the truths that I have held onto for most of my life. I can’t help but wonder if Nietzsche is right, and God is dead.
I think it’s okay to have these questions and feelings. The other day, I was reading through the oldest book in the Bible – Job. Some experts think that Job was written by Moses. Some say that Job didn’t actually exist as a person, he was just a metaphor for all of the bad things that can happen in a person’s life. I don’t know if he existed or not — I don’t think it really matters, but I do know that a lot of bad things happened to him. He lost all of his possessions to both natural disasters and thieves, his kids were killed in a freak accident, his body broke out in painful sores, and his wife told him to “curse God and die.” Everything went wrong for Job. I picture him as a victim of Katrina, who moves to Newtown, and then gets a bad case of adult chicken-pox.
Throughout the story, we see Job questioning God. Just like my generation, Job is unsatisfied with the same old answers – he wants to know why evil and suffering exist, and why both have happened to him. Just like Sunday school answers fall short, none of Job’s friends provide him with the answers he’s looking for. None of what Job knows about God seems to make sense of his suffering.
So Job cries out to God. He raises his voice against the heavens and asks God to explain himself. And after all hope and understanding have faded. When we get the sense that even Job, the most righteous man on the planet is getting ready to give up, God speaks out of a storm.
“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man, and I will question you and you will answer me.
Where were you, when I laid the Earth’s foundations?
Tell me if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions?
Surely, you know.
Who stretched a measuring line across it,
on what were its footings set,or who laid its cornerstone,
while the morning stars sang together
and all of the angels shouted for joy?
Who shut up the sea behind doors, when it burst forth from the womb?
When I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness?
When I set limits for it, and put its doors and bars in place?
When I said, “this far you may come and no further. This is where your proud waves halt!”
Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place?
That it might take the Earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?
The Earth takes shape like clay under a seal, its features stick out like those of a garment.
The wicked are denied their light; their upraised arm is broken!
Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the Earth?
Tell me if you know all this!
What is the way to the abode of light, and where does darkness reside?
Can you show them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years… (continue reading)
I need the story of Job. There are so many times when I try to make God into what I think or want God to be. I think God looks a certain way, acts a certain way, thinks a certain way, does certain things, and expects certain things of us. These expectations and my view of God are good, in a way, because they prove that I’ve studied God, talked to him, and used logic and experience to analyze and process the data. But I lack the fear of God.
God is big enough to handle our questions. He’s big enough to handle our doubts, absurdities, and arrogance. But there is a time to stop questioning. There is a time to set aside my inability to fathom the complexities of life, and simply sit and admire the greatness of God.
There needs to be a point in my life where I surrender my doubting heart, and accept the fact that God can do whatever he wants. I need to fear God. I need a healthy dose of, “God please don’t kill me!” I need a healthy dose of, “God please don’t kill my family or my career!” Because he could. NOT because he’s mean or evil, but because he is wiser, smarter, and better at planning someone’s life than I am. Because he has a plan that is all about himself – his agenda.
If we fit into that plan, it’s because he wants us to.
OBVIOUSLY, we need to balance fearing God with his love. After all:
He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3).
He demonstrated his love for us in this, while we were STILL sinners Christ died for us. (Rom. 5)
He has adopted us as his kids! We are his children, and he lavishes love on us. (1 John 3)
God is VERY loving.
But what I need to understand, and what my generation needs to understand, is that questioning something unfathomable can only bring us so far. There are times when, as humans, we should do what Job did and raise our fists to heaven and ask God for answers. But Job is a book about wisdom, and the wisdom that Job finds at the end of his story is wisdom that we are lacking.
Job says, “I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer – twice, but I will say no more…I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I do not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 40, 42)
There is a point where all of our questioning and uncertainty becomes another form of pride. Pride that says, “I know best God!” But true wisdom, the kind that all of us questioners need, is the kind that says, “I spoke of things I do not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. I put my hand over my mouth…I will say no more.”
What do you think? Do you agree? You may comment below…