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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 in general.
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 power...
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 well could.
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 it.
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 paying.
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!



Love Letter photo used with permission of Rian Houston