It's the question that prevents many people from ever accepting Christ as their Savior, and it's a difficult question to tackle as Christans; "How can a good God allow something so bad?" I've even heard Christians give in to this thinking saying, "They're a good Christian family, but they're dealing with this awful situation." But the truth is that Christ never promised us a life of ease as Christians, in fact He promised the exact opposite, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world." He doesn't say we might have trouble or that we won't, He says it's definite that we will face hardships. I've even heard pastors say that if Christians aren't exeriencing trials, they're not living the Christian life because Satan doesn't see them as a threat to his purposes here on earth. But we as Christians believe that God is good because we have accepted on faith the truth of God's Word, but the question is what do you say to those that don't have that assurance?
Some people would say that I have no experience with hardships in my life, so I couldn't possibly understand the horrible things that are out there in the world, and it's true, God has protected me from many horrible things in life, but it doesn't mean that I'm unaware of the challenge of reconciling a fallen world with the goodness of God. In fact, it's been one of the biggest struggles of my Christian life. I have hesitated in sharing this story, because it's not my personal story, and it doesn't have a happy ending yet, but I believe God has taught me so much about His goodness through it that I can't not share it.
I led what many would call a charmed life, and still do. I have two parents who love me and have been married for almost 30 years. I lived in a nice home, went to a Christian school, grew up in church, went to college, married my first and only love, found my dream job, have a beautiful son, etc. I am so incredibly blessed, and I know that it was all because of God's goodness. Don't think that there weren't hardships or trials in my life, but in the big scheme of life, they are tiny in comparison to what others experience, including someone very close to me.
For privacy sake, I won't share this person's name, so I'll call them John. John didn't have two happily married parents as a child, his parents were young, unmarried, and not planning to have a baby. His mom showed him little love and was often abusive and neglectful of John, leaving many physical and emotional scars in a very short part of his life. She eventually decided she was done being a mom and abandoned him while he was no more than a toddler. John's dad wasn't much better, while he wasn't abusive, he was far from attentive. He was more interested in being young and living his own life. John needed a stable home, and a relative offered to take him in to their loving home, but his mom refused them out of spite towards the relatives and her own son. Finally, a solution was found and John was placed in the home of an elderly relative, who tried to give him the best home possible with very little money. He went to church and came to know Christ at a young age, but because of his early childhood and unstable parents who came in and out of his life often, his life was chaotic and tumultuous. School was diffcult, teachers didn't know what to do with him, he didn't sit still or pay attention well, and he was constantly behind in his studies. Unfortunately for John, these were in the days before ADHD diagnoses or special education reform, so after being held back once or twice, teachers gave up and just passed him on through to get him out of their hair until middle school, then life changed even more drastically for John.
At the age of 13, his only real parent figure was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away a few months later. Gone was the only stable home life John had ever known, and even though both of his parents were living, in many ways he was now an orphan. The relatives that had tried to get custody of him from the beginning invited him to come live in their home, and he did for a while, but John was angry, and he was hurting, and his new family didn't know how to help him. They sent him to a new school that tried to work with him, but he began to act out. Eventually, he had dug himself into a hole that no one, including himself, knew how to get him out of. He decided to go live with his dad who was an alcoholic and drug addict. It wasn't long before John joined his dad in drinking and drugs. His life began to spin out of control. He spent some time in jail, he dropped out of school, he couldn't hold a job, he was stealing for drug money, his life was in shambles. Unfortunately, things didn't get better. Over fifteen years later, John's life is still in shambles. He has no family of his own, no home, no formal education beyond 8th grade, not even a drivers' license, much less a car. And in all that time, I've never stopped wondering how a good God could allow John's life to be so incredibly different from mine.
I have spent more time being angry at God and questioning Him over allowing those awful things to happen to John, than anything else I've ever experienced. My heart breaks for John, I want better for him, but I feel helpless. I have spent many years praying for John, praying that God would change his heart, that He woul make him turn his life around, but after all these years I've not seen any changes. I've spent time discussing my doubts with several Christians that I resect and love, and I've come to recognize that while those horrible things did happen, God never abandoned John. In fact, God gave John many opportunities to change his life, but John rejected them. I still don't undestand why God would allow him to have had such an awful childhood, but I have also come to realize that God never leaves us hopeless and that He can bring good from evil, if we're willing. I've also come to realize that my prayer for John needs to change. Instead of praying for a life change, I'm praying for John to know that he is loved, not just by me, but also by God, and that he was never truly abandoned. I can't imagine the hole that must be in his heart after all the things he's exerienced, but I know that God's love is the perfect size to fill that hole and completely wrap around him, and my prayer is that John will accept it and forgive his past.
I do believe with all my heart that God is a good God, and I know this because I know that He never intended for us to experience pain, tears, and sin. His original design was the Garden of Eden, where man walked in fellowship with God on a daily basis, but man rejected His creation, and has continued to reject His original and perfect design. As a result, we live in a fallen world, filled with sin, pain, and death. But there is hope, because while on earth we face those terrible things, this is not the end for us, in the end, God wins! He has already overcome this world, and if we choose to accept Him and His plan for our life, we are guaranteed to see a life without pain or death one day. So even if this life is filled with troubles and hardships, it's only a small fraction in comparison to eternity with Him in paradise.