God is not Santa Claus*.
Although most of us would be offended at the idea of equating the Almighty God with Jolly Old Saint Nick, the simple fact is that we often do. In the midst of even light and momentary suffering, it is rare to find a western Christian who doesn’t find themselves asking, “How could a good and loving–and don’t forget all-powerful–God allow this to happen to me?”
If we’ve “been good”, we expect nice things from God, quite like we do from Santa.
Trust me, it is a natural response to suffering in this world. But followers of Yeshua are no longer natural. We have been changed and are continuously being changed (matured, if you will) from the inside out as God the Spirit teaches us and refines us. In time, we can all learn to see our lives and the people in it from God’s perspective. But until we do, we are often like the blind men trying to describe an elephant with only its trunk or tail in our hands: None of us can see the reality, and it is much bigger than we imagine.
Before I wade into this torrent, let me add that this is not idle speculation for me. Death missed me by a whisker in 2020 (multiple pulmonary embolisms), and has circled back for a second strafing run: I have recently been diagnosed with Lymphoma (early stage, thank God). My youngest daughter has also struggled with very serious health issues, and any parent will tell you that pains us far more than our own problems. You will meet very few people happier to kiss 2020 goodbye than me.
Even so, I am blessed beyond measure. I could list them all, but I have to stay focused or this will never get written. However, there is one blessing I will share today that is particularly relevant to this topic: I am learning to trust God with my life.
My literal life.
So how did I get to this place? Well, it has not been a smooth road; I’m human, after all, and I’ve failed, railed, whined and complained with the very best.
Apparently, God is quite patient.
At some point He drove home several lessons that stuck, starting with this one: Yes indeed, our world is not the best possible world that Philosophy 101 students are taught God is obligated to create. Instead, our world is part of the best possible path to the best possible world. Creation is still unfolding!
Straightaway, I can suggest at least one thing that makes our current world exquisitely wonderful–in spite of being a pit stop on the journey of all existence–is the discovery here that God was so filled with love and compassion for humanity that He sent his own son as a sacrifice for us so that we may have relationship with Him. Without that ultimate act of both love and humility, neither man nor angel nor any other extra-terrestrials** would have such vivid, historical proof of God’s character. I’m sure we will bear witness to the wonder of it all for an infinite future.
An aside: I heartily recommend the television series, The Chosen. It is the first time I’ve ever seen Yeshua’s character portrayed so vividly and attractively. After the first season I said, “Now I finally understand why someone would drop everything and follow Him.”
I’m sure there are a multitude of additional reasons that make the circumstances of this world the best way to get to the best possible world, but the fact that I don’t know them all leads to the second lesson that stuck: God is God, and I am not (to quote my man Stephen Curtis Chapman and many others). God’s frame of reference is infinite and His wisdom is perfect. Most importantly, as previously mentioned, He has proven His love as well.
I sleep peacefully in the knowledge that not only am I secure in an amazing and joyful eternal future, but everything I experience here has a purpose and meaning. God does not waste anything, least of all my tears and pain. Romans 8:28 is a multifaceted diamond of truth that speaks to me every time I consider it:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28 – New International Version
Certainly not everything that happens to us is good in this fallen world, full as it is with sin and the evil work of Satan himself. But God is so loving, powerful, and wise that He eventually works out everything for our good. Patience during the “out-working”, as I call it, is the hard part for us. But God has already proven His love, and if we truly believe He has the power and the wisdom to pull this off, then we can wait with hope.
I didn’t say the waiting is easy. I know from personal and painful experience that it can be excruciating. I have been angry at God and acted out. But one of the great blessings of having walked with Jesus for so long–nearly half a century now–is that I’ve seen God do so much for me, my family and others that I (almost) never doubt His existence or His love. My anger, frustration and even sadness are basically a battle of wills. I want what I want when I want it, and like the child I am, I throw tantrums when I don’t get it.
Still, I can bear witness to a strange truth: Submission to the will of our Creator is the greatest freedom we will ever know. It is truly a restoration of the way things were always supposed to be.
Conversely, I imagine that it must be very difficult for those who do not believe in an afterlife to accept suffering in this life. If this is all there is, and if this life sucks, then we certainly have reason to despair. A relationship with God has implications, however, and one of them is that we have a reason for hope.
As holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom wrote in The Hiding Place, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”
She would know. And now I do as well, and so can you.
P.S. If you would like to know this “peace with God”, as the late, great Billy Graham called it, and if you don’t know how to invite Christ into your life, please reach out using the form below and allow me the honor of explaining it to you.
I hope it goes without saying, but I do not share or sell your contact information with anyone, the exception being a legal search warrant or subpoena.
*The picture at the top is my granddaughter Rachel’s hand while feeding Santa’s reindeer, which are housed about 30 miles north of where I live. Yes, that is a pretty weird connection to the first line of this article, but I went there, anyway.
** The Bible is chock full of descriptions of creatures who are not from earth. God is also delightfully creative, so yes, I believe we are not alone.