I’ve heard people say they can’t believe in a racist, misogynistic god who lets tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes destroy entire cities. Who lets so many in the world go hungry and without clean water. Who lets so many suffer. An uncaring god who turns an unsympathetic eye to mass shootings, lethal diseases, and endemic poverty.
I have to agree with them. I couldn’t (and don’t) believe in a god like that either. I believe that God is good, and that He wants nothing but good things for His creation.
But there was a time not long ago when I had forgotten all about the goodness of God. My emotional pain had wrapped me so tight that I was suffocating. There were times I literally couldn’t breathe it hurt so much, and yet the world seemed to go on like everything was fine.
I trod through my days like an oxen through cement. It seemed like I was always in danger of sinking.
Have you ever been there, friend? Like the fog won’t lift and you can barely see six inches in front of your face?
It’s so easy to forget that a loving, powerful God knit you together in the womb and made you one of a kind. Who’s thinking about their irreplaceable purpose in the world when they’re just trying to survive?
Overwhelming emotions happen. It’s part of the human experience, but not a character flaw. Think of so many heroes of the faith—Moses, Elijah, and King David, to name a few—who broke down and despaired of living.
But where we run into trouble is attributing negative human character flaws (like racism and apathy to suffering) to a God who purposefully designed each of us with our specific DNA, including race, gender, and ethnicity. He chose our parents, where we’d be born, and all of our physical characteristics.
Not only did He specifically designate every detail from eye color to IQ, but He made us in His own image. How could He not love something that He fashioned after Himself? Think of the best set of parents you know and how proud they are of their children, and then multiply how good they are to their kids by infinity. That’s a glimpse of how good God is to us, His created beings fashioned after Himself.
Why would God be indifferent or evil to those He created specifically and individually? To those He made to be just like Him?
Racism and apathy don’t come from our Heavenly Father. He never modeled those for us. Those negative character flaws come from our human tendency to selfishness—a key element in every sin.
Other injustices, like neglect, abuse, and abandonment don’t come from God, either. The pain resulting from other people doing those things is sometimes so great that we tend to lump God in there too, when He’s just as grieved about their decisions as we are, or more so. God, who gave us free will (another aspect of His image), allows us to make choices that impact others, and others have the same ability to negatively impact us, even in catastrophic ways.
Thinking otherwise is merely an attempt to recreate God in our own image. It’s He who created us in His image and our call as disciples is to become more and more like Jesus, walking in His steps.
King David wrote a Psalm that I quoted to myself many times through the dark year of 2014.
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
I clung to this verse like a tiny spark of light in the darkest cavern. Even now it’s a reminder to me that I can trust the goodness of God, even when there’s chaos all around me and I can’t see through the fog.
Those times of trial give us an opportunity to process the goodness of God in the depths of our hearts, rather than just giving it lip service when things go our way. When we have to actually search for it, it’s then that the difference it makes in our lives counts.
It’s like an upward cycle—the more we know who He is, the better we understand His goodness. The better we understand His goodness, the more we want to extend goodness in our own lives. The more we want to extend goodness to those around us, the less suffering there is in the world.
Simply put, the existence of apathy, racism, hatred, and the like in the world is simply because of one basic thing: we aren’t yet enough like our Maker. We’re created in His image, but like the child who mimics her parent, we can choose whether to do so, or rebel against everything He stands for.
When we reflect the goodness of God by digging wells in impoverished nations, doing tornado relief work, feeding hungry kids in our own school districts, and supporting orphan care in third-world countries, that’s when it’s most evident to those caught up in suffering. It’s in the note of encouragement we send to our depressed friend and the meal we take to someone recovering from surgery. It doesn’t have to be magnanimous. It only has to meet a need.
Is there someone in your life who needs to see the goodness of God again? Or perhaps someone across the world you haven’t met but feel a burden to show them? I challenge you to start the Advent season by pointing the light we’ve been given toward one dark place this week. If you do, please comment below so others will be inspired to do the same.