Most of the big questions we struggle with in religion revolve around the pain caused by our fellow man. Even natural disasters seem pale in comparison to the horrors of war, slavery, and genocide. These atrocities cause many of us to wonder about the nature of our very Creator. This conflict was very effectively summarized by Luther in Batman vs. Superman:
"I figured out way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful." – Lex Luthor
As profound as this may seem to any burgeoning atheist, it is a truth which has been clearly admitted in Scripture: Sometimes, God is helpless.
Our Freewill is God's Helplessness
"And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart." - Genesis 6:6 ESV
It didn't take long into the story of mankind for God to feel the first tinge of helplessness. The decision to give humanity free will immediately results in corruption and cruelty. In our barbaric infancy, God interceded with natural disasters and civilization-defining miracles, but never crossed the line to alter who and what we are. As children of God, we always have a choice.
Every time God feels helpless, it is at that sacred line drawn at the founding of creation: choice. A line so precious that God has chosen to suffer and endure heartache so as to never to cross it. For example, even when God personally selected a king for Israel, Saul, there was no guarantee of success:
“I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night." - 1 Samuel 15:11
The Beautiful and Terrifying Consequences of Choice
How much more powerful, and deeper, the understand of God's continued love and grace for us when we understand the patience and suffering endured! What is love without the potential for loss? It is slavery. God did not create life to be enslaved but began instead as children to grow and chose.
"So he left the place and went back to his father. ‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him." - Luke 15:20 NJB
To grasp this truth is to understand that when we suffer, God suffers with us. When we overcome our obstacles, God celebrates with us. As parents, we learn that we can only equip children to make decisions, but we cannot make them for them. It is terrifying, but it is the beauty of life itself.
God is Sovereign, not Sadistic
I understand it is hard for many to accept an uncertain world. Many religious leaders try to twist God into a kind of puppet-master, micro-managing our lives. But of course, that would be cruel indeed. If our actions were God's choice and not our own, how sadistic would that make God?
God is sovereign, yes. But that sovereignty is exercised not in our choices, but in the continued grace provided for us to grow, learn, struggle, and mature. God has created a world that challenges us to work together, and take responsibility for one another.
"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." - Romans 8:20-22 ESV
God Endures With Us
As we struggle with issues of injustice, let us realize that God is struggling with us. The examples of Jesus Christ, the teachings of Scripture, and the continued presence of men and women filled with the Spirit are all ways God keeps reaching out to us saying, "Chose love."
"Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side." - Rev. 3:20 - NJB