How can God be loving if He is really in control?
This question has been used for years to bring
into question either God's love or His power. How can an all-loving God
allow all the evil we see in the world, if He really has the power to stop
it? Any good parent with the power to do so would not allow his
children to be the victims of evil. Either He is all-loving or
all-powerful, but not both, so goes the argument.
An imaginary discussion
To see a possible answer to this question, let's listen in on an imaginary
discussion between two friends, John and Dave. Dave is a relatively new
believer whose son Josh was recently hit by a car and may not live,
bringing into focus the question we posed above. John is a more
mature believer who tries to bring out some possible answers.
John: I'm sorry to hear about your
boy. That must be really hard to take.
Dave: Yes, it has really caused me to do some thinking about life
John: Yes, I can imagine it has. What have you concluded?
Dave: Well, I still have lots of questions, but my concept of God
has taken a big hit.
John: Oh, how's that?
Dave: Well, for one thing, I no longer see how God can be the
loving God I have been taught, and still be the omnipotent God I am told
He is. I mean, my Josh has done nothing to deserve what he is going
through. If God were half the father I am, He would never have allowed it
to happen. It looks to me like we have to choose whether we want to
believe God really loves us or He is really in control. I don't see any
way both can be true. I know how much I love Josh, and if I had it in my
John: Wow, I see where you are coming from. I know you love Josh
just as much as I do my kids. But just for purposes of discussion, imagine
you had been able to prevent Josh from getting hit-
Dave: You know I would have!
John: I know. I just wanted you to think what you would have had to
do to prevent it. Even if it wouldn't be practical, you could
watch Josh all the time.
Dave: Well, yes, but of course I have other responsibilities.
John: Of course, but just imagine that you made it your highest
priority to protect Josh from any and all dangers. It could get
ridiculous, I agree, but you could pretty well protect him.
Dave: Well, I guess it would be possible, except for disease.
John: I know it's not practical, but they do have these bubbles
they put kids in who have no natural immune system.
Dave: What kind of life would that be?
John: Not much fun for you, your wife or Josh, that's for sure! But
my point is that, if you were to throw aside all other considerations and
make it your highest goal to protect Josh from all dangers, you pretty
Dave: I guess so, but what are you driving at?
John: I wanted you to think about the fact that as parents, we have
a higher purpose than just protecting our kids from all danger, although
we could do so, for all practical purposes. What would you say your
fondest wish is for Josh?
Dave: Hmmm...well, I guess it would be for him to grow, develop and
fully reach his potential as a person.
John: And that wouldn't happen in a bubble...
Dave: No, that's for sure.
John: Have you thought that this might be a way to look at God and
the way He deals with us has His children? Don't you think it is
reasonable to say that God's highest purpose is for us to develop the
potential He created us to have?
Dave: Yes, that makes sense.
John: And, even though He knows that the kind of freedom that
leaves a person free to become all they were meant to be will mean that
they are open to pain and hurt, He values their freedom enough to allow
Dave: That makes sense until I think of Josh, all banged up and
maybe going to die...and the guy responsible just driving away...
John: I know it's not theoretical to you at all, but very real.
Obviously God's freedom for men and women means that they will sin, and
the results of much of that sin hurt others as well as the person doing
the sinning. If you think of Josh, your releasing him to develop his
personality and make his unique mark on the world will ultimately include
his freedom to reject you and your values. That is what our freedom means
to God, as well.
Dave: Yes, I can see how the freedom to develop on our own includes
the freedom to sin, and how that frequently hurts others. But it seems so
unfair when it is my own innocent child...
John: I know what you mean. The other part of that freedom, from
God's perspective, is the fact that all of us will have to account to God
for our actions. In other words, all sin will ultimately be judged and all
wrongs be made right.
Dave: So you are saying the guy who hit Josh will have to someday
pay for his actions?
John: Yes, he will stand before God in judgment for all he has
done. Of course that is true for all mankind - we are all guilty before
God. If we have placed our trust in Christ, however, all our sins have
already been paid for. But for those who have rejected God, they will have
to pay for their sins themselves, eternally, and never be able to stop
Dave: That makes me so glad to know that Jesus has already paid for
my sins, and that I'm no longer under God's condemnation. And it is
comforting to know that Josh's injuries will not go unpunished.
John: The Bible doesn't give us a neat and tidy answer to all our
questions, but if we look at Job and all the suffering he endured, he
didn't get answers to his questions either. But what he did get - what
stopped all his questions - was a glimpse of the awesomeness of God
Himself. I think that is a good clue as to how God wants us to deal with
these unanswerable questions - seek to know Him more deeply and
completely. And as we do, we will learn that He can be trusted to make all
things right, now and for eternity. Of course, the Bible is the place to
learn all about the character and nature of God.
Dave: Thanks, John, that helps a lot. I'm going to spend more time
in the Bible, that's for sure!