From the time when we could first speak, we started asking questions. At first, they were along the lines of “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why is Mickey Mouse’s dog Pluto bigger than he is?”
Then as we got older and more mature, our questions became more significant. Why could the professor on “Gilligan’s Island” make a radio out of a coconut, but couldn’t fix a hole in a boat? Or, why does lemon juice contain artificial flavoring, while dishwashing liquid is made with real lemon juice?
But then there are serious questions, like why is there suffering in the world? Or, how can Christians say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God? Or, how could a God of love send someone to hell? We have all heard these questions. Many of us have asked them. And they are valid questions.
Even so, I have found that when people bring these up, sometimes they are nothing more than a smokescreen. The reason I know this is because when I am beginning to answer one, they are moving on to the second question. When I get to the second question, they are on to the third and fourth questions. They just basically want me to go away. They want the Christian to stop talking, because it is making them a little bit uncomfortable.
If you have genuine questions, however, the Bible has answers. God says, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18 NKJV). Christianity is a logical faith. It was after I became a Christian that the world began to make sense to me. Prior to that, I thought humanity was basically good. I really struggled with the horrible things that people did to other people. But after I became a believer and realized the Bible taught that humanity is not basically good, but in reality is sinful, I began to understand. I also discovered that God can change the human heart. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you have to check your brain at the door. Yet human intellect and notions of fairness reject the apparent contradiction between a loving God and a world of hate. In the classic statement of the problem, either God is all powerful, but not all good, and therefore he doesn’t stop evil, or he is all good but not all powerful, and therefore he cannot stop evil. The general tendency is to blame all the bad things that happen in the world on God.
In a broad sense, sickness, disabilities and even death are a result of sin. These are not necessarily a result of personal sin, but of sin in general. God’s original idea was that these bodies of ours never would wear out. They never would have been wrinkled. I still would have hair on my head. But because of the entrance of sin into the world, we have aging. We have disease. We have death. And when bad things happen, it is because sinful people make the wrong choices.
So why didn’t God make us so we could not sin? It is because God has given us something called a free will to make our own decisions. In many ways, free will is our greatest blessing and our greatest curse, depending on what we do with it. God doesn’t want us to love him in a pre-programmed way; God wants us to choose to love him. Love is not genuine if there is no other option.
God made you. He gave you the ability to choose. But he will not force you to say, “I love you.” If you want to choose to live sinfully, you can. But it is the wrong choice, and God will try to pull you away from it. Essentially, he will let you do what you choose to do. God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). The Bible says there is a broad way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go that way. There is also a narrow way that leads to life, and there are few who find it (see Matthew 7:13).
That choice is before us today. This God of love doesn’t want suffering, but we often bring that suffering upon ourselves, and it never will completely go away until the Lord comes back again.
But sometimes God can use tragedy and suffering to get our attention. The psalmist said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:67). Again, to quote C.S. Lewis, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Sometimes we don’t pay attention when everything is going well. The sky is blue. The bills are paid. We are just kicking back and loving life. But when the bottom drops out, when tragedy strikes, we turn more of our attention toward God.
Larry King once asked me, “Isn’t Christianity a crutch?”
I told him, “Christianity isn’t a crutch to me. Jesus Christ is a whole hospital.” I am not afraid or embarrassed to admit that I need God. And if it seems narrow and intolerant to say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, the only reason I say this is because Jesus himself said it (see John 14:6). Only Jesus Christ was qualified to bridge the gap between a holy God and sinful humanity. God doesn’t send anyone to hell; we send ourselves there by the choices that we make.
I believe the primary reason people do not put their faith in Jesus Christ is not because they struggle with the gospel philosophically or intellectually. It is not because anyone really cares where Cain got his wife. These are excuses they hide behind, plain and simple. According to Jesus himself, the real reason people don’t believe in him is because they love darkness and don’t want to change.