Love hurts

I found myself angrily shaking my fists in prayer yesterday. Not at God, but at men…evil men. Men in countries like Egypt, Syria, India, and Iran who persecute and kill Christians, just for being Christians. Grrr! Why doesn’t God just slay them, stop them, annihilate them all? He could. I know he could. But he doesn’t.

Almost immediately after my angry outburst I had a thought that may be my answer. God doesn’t destroy them all because he loves even them, and he’s giving them a chance to repent and be saved. Most of them won’t take it, and he knows that, but he must give it to them anyway. Oh, God…why do you love so?

I might not have had that thought if I hadn’t recently read William Lane Craig’s answer to the question, Does God Love the Devil? I would probably have answered in the negative but Dr. Craig says yes, that indeed he does, though not in the same way he loves Jesus and those who belong to him. His answer came to mind in my anger and angst over the unjust suffering of innocents and the delay of just retribution for murderers, and I thought, if God loves even Satan then surely he loves these murderers too. And I realized, more than I had before, that humanity suffers because God is loving.

The most challenging objection to the existence of the God of the Bible is the problem of evil, pain, and suffering. If God is all-loving and all-powerful he’d ensure that we suffer very little, if at all, says the objector. The reality of so much apparently gratuitous suffering is evidence of his non-existence. So the argument stems from a perceived incongruity between human suffering and God’s love. But the Christian maintains that not only is there no incongruity, there is a correlating relationship. Consider the following ways that suffering can result from God’s love:

  1. God created us for a love relationship with himself but love must be freely given or it is something other than love, and as free creatures we can choose to be devoted or dastardly, to bless others or bring suffering on them.
  2. His love for even the most damnable among us, “not wishing that any should perish,” stays his hand of judgment until all who will turn to him in repentance and faith do so, prolonging the suffering they inflict on others.
  3. Since our eternal happiness and joy are found in knowing God, and an easy, pain-free life would keep many of us from seeking him, he may bring some serious storms into our placid existence so we will cry out to him for rescue.
  4. And since the greatest blessing we could ever experience is true intimacy with God, and genuine intimacy can only be experienced between beings of the same kind, he brings or allows difficult trials in our lives that shape our character and transform us into his likeness.

Someday suffering will cease for those who respond in faith to its painful, trying, transformative reality in this life. For those who don’t…who rail at, curse, deny, reject, and refuse to believe and trust in the God who loves them…suffering will continue. Evil men will have all of eternity to inflict pain on each other, with no chance of relief, rescue, or reformation. The only evil they won’t be able to inflict is death.

“And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.” – Revelation 9:6