Life is not skipping from mountain peak to mountain peak. There are valleys. And the deepest valley I have been through was the loss of a daughter. I was speaking in the Asheville, North Carolina area when I got a call from my youngest daughter asking me to come home as soon as I could. I asked what had happened, and she told me that her older sister had committed suicide. There is nothing I have experienced in life like the loss of a child in that way. I drove home to Charlotte immediately. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever got home through all the tears.
Recalling times of tragedy, when personal or close at hand, is not difficult. At such times, answers about God and evil seem elusive or unsatisfying. At some time or another, everyone wonders about the existence of evil and suffering in the world. Its presence has touched all, ravaged many, and perplexed thinking men throughout the ages.
Since evil seems to be real, then perhaps God is not. We experience the reality of evil, but we do not seem to experience the reality of God. Therefore, many atheists have argued that the existence of evil in the world proves there is no God. If God does exist, must we believe that God is cruel, compassionless, impotent, or nonexistent in order to deal with the reality of evil in the world?
This question is more than an abstract, philosophical one. It touches each and every one of us where we live. Man was created in the image of God and was placed on earth with the power of free choice, and through his willful free choice, brought evil into the world. Our moral nature is a testimony to the reality of a moral structure within the universe, and our cruelty is a testimony to the sinful nature within man. It also explains the basic frustration, loneliness, and alienation felt by man, who is cut off from a higher reality since he is no longer in a normal state.
We are right to ask about the existence of God, and we are right to ask the moral question. The Christian position provides answers to these questions because we do live in a world created by a moral, loving, and powerful God. This, in fact, is the optimism of Christianity. Since there is an all-powerful God who can defeat evil without destroying free choice, and since there is an all-loving God who wants to defeat evil without destroying free choice, then there is the assured hope that He will defeat evil in the future.
The ultimate optimism of Christianity is that in the future there will be a time when evil is rendered null and void. But Christianity holds more than just the ultimate hope of the eventual defeat of evil. It provides immediate satisfaction and power to deal with the sinful nature of man. God desires to restore man to a vital personal relationship with Himself through man’s faith in God, through the death of Jesus Christ for man’s sin. The debt of sin and evil has been paid, and man has only to receive it.
Life is not skipping from mountain peak to mountain peak. There are valleys, and God can see you through the deepest valley. The suicide of your child is one of the worst possible things that can happen to you. You can’t imagine how bad it is. But God’s grace is sufficient. He is there when you go through the valley of the shadow of death, and He was with my family. He gave us the strength to go through it. After over sixty years of marriage, my wife and I have come to realize that God is supremely good when He gives and no less good when He denies.
Even crosses from His gracious hand are blessings in disguise.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Jeff Bumgardner and Dr. Stephen Cutchins new book. Green Hearts: God’s Goodness in the Worst of Times. This study is a reflection of grief and is response to the tragic loss of Jeff Bumgardner’s 10-year old daughter Ella.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Lesson #1 — Grief
Lesson #2 — Pain
Lesson #3 — Questions
Lesson #4 — Answers
Lesson #5 — Surprises
Lesson #6 — Grace
Lesson #7 — Faith