For when we ask why...

Today's thought:

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

We look at this world with its evil, suffering, pain and brokenness and wonder, why? If God is so good why did He allow this world to exist in its present fallen state? Or, why does He not take evil out of this world?

These were the thoughts that we're going through my mind several years ago as I sat by the bed of my Mother as she lay dying in a hospice from lung cancer. The one who stood up for me all my life could no longer stand...or open her eyes, or speak an audible word, or wrap her arms around me in love's embrace. I watched as cancer slowly extinguished the flame of her spirit that once burned so bright. I wondered, why?

I grappled with this question in the quiet dark nights that followed. It would swirl in my mind as I lay in bed, my wife sound asleep beside me, as I stared at the ceiling, silent tears sliding down my checks into the pillow. My heart cried out to God in desperation and with a deep aching throb. "Isn't God good? Then why?"

The answer did not come right away. Not until I was ready and able to accept it. It was not what I expected or imagined, but once I saw it and God spoke it in my heart, I understood. I knew this answer theologically but it took on incredible depth and richness when it finally was spoke into my life. You might think the answer is trite or inconsequential but I assure you it is not. It is true and mysterious.

Why God does not take evil out of this world is simply this: He loves you. You see, it's in Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." God knew us before we even took a breath. More than that, Ephesians 1:4, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love..." God knew us before He even created a thing and He responded to that knowledge in love.

Now consider this: what if God took evil out of the world tomorrow? To do that God would have to take you and I out of this world and out of existence. If this world were a perfect place, you and I would not be in it. It would be the same as wishing for a different father. Had my Mom had me with a different man, a better man, I may be better looking or stronger or smarter, but I can't ignore the fact, I would not be me. I would have never existed.

But God knew us. Before we existed we were a reality in the mind of God. Not just the work in progress that we are, mind you, but us, the finished product in Christ (1 John 3:2). He weighed out the evil, the horrors, the atrocities, the suffering, and death—all these things have brought Him great pain and anguish too (we do not suffer alone but God suffers with us throughout all human history)—in one hand and His love for you in the other and you were more important, you were more precious, more dear to Him than all the rest.

It's no less mysterious now that I have an answer. As the Psalmist muses, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4).

So now the mystery isn't, "Why evil?" but rather, "Why does God love us so much?" For God has suffered, perhaps the most, when He sent Love to this world in the form of Jesus. He had to turn His back on His own Son while on the cross, to pass upon Him our judgement and punishment. "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10). An answer and a marvelous beautiful mystery in one.

Prayer: Father, I am a sinner in need of Your grace. You have suffered greatly because of Your love for me. But still You loved me and sent Your Son to die for me that I might have eternal life. I thank You for this mysterious love, that I can neither fathom nor comprehend, but is all the same real and ever present. What can I say but that I love you because You first loved me. That is answer enough and mystery enough for me. In Jesus precious name, amen.