What Would You Ask God?

     Over the years I have done hundreds of individual spiritual plans with people.  One of the questions I often ask in that process is “If you could ask God anything and you knew He would answer, what would you ask?” The number one answer is some variation on the question “Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?”  Typically, the person puts a personal focus on it such as “Why did I lose my child to a horrible disease?” or “Where was God when I was abused as a kid?”  Any variation of this question is difficult and involves some mystery.  Thick, weighty books have been written on this subject, but I think the heart of the answer is that evil and suffering are the high price we pay when we live in a world where God gives free will. 
     The freewill decisions of our original ancestors Adam and Eve introduced brokenness into creation when they sinned against God.  An image that helps me is that of the liberty bell.  It’s still beautiful but there is a large crack through it.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans that creation itself “groans” (Romans 8:22).  When a child is born with birth defects, when a disease rages through a community, or a tsunami takes out thousands of lives you can almost hear creation groaning in its brokenness.
      The freewill decisions of others cause evil and suffering in our lives.  The woman who experiences the horror of rape is because of the evil, free will decision of another person.  The family that is hit by the drunk driver experiences pain, suffering and possibly even death because of the foolish decision of another.  The individual saddled with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome suffers their entire lives because their mother chose to drink while pregnant.  There is one painful example after another.
      In addition, our own freewill decisions can cause us pain and suffering.  I will never forget visiting a man decades ago in a hospital in Indianapolis who was dying of lung cancer. He angrily asked me, “Why is God doing this to me?”  I knew him well and tried to gently remind him that he had smoked for decades and was now suffering the consequences of that choice. 
      Even when God punishes or disciplines people (i.e. the flood or the Babylonian Captivity of Israel) these happen as a result of the freewill decisions of people.   A world where free will exists is complicated and messy.  There are definitely times God intervenes, but usually he lets the consequences of human free will play out.  The price of a world with free will is high but most of us would NOT sign up for an existence where we do not have free will. Who wants to be a robot?
      When we face these excruciating moments of suffering, how should we respond?  In a word TRUST.  Trust God’s sovereignty.  Trust God’s love for us.  The cross helps me with this.  From one angle, Jesus died on the cross because of the sinful freewill decisions of Pontius Pilate, the Jewish leaders, the crowds and humanity who have all sinned.  Yet from another angle, the cross is God’s plan from before the foundation of the world to take care of our sin problem; the way God choose to show his stunning love for us.  The tragedy of the cross offers us forgiveness and freedom from the power of sin in the present, and freedom from the presence of sin in our future eternity.  When I am in pain or see the suffering of others, I remember the cross; where it looks like darkness, evil and suffering prevail and yet, in reality, light, love and joy triumph.  Embrace the mystery and trust God. 
Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church