Happy Friday RedStaters – and welcome back to the Water Cooler, which is always an Open Thread…
Mad at God!?
Earlier this week I came across the news about Bill O’Reilly saying that he is “Mad at God” regarding accusations against him and the fallout on him and especially his family. This was covered by Kimberly Ross here.
First – regarding the accusations against him – of course I am not in the position to know one way or the other about the veracity of the claims. I will say that having personally been put through a multiyear legal nightmare where accusations were made for nefarious reasons and had no basis in fact, I read these printed accusations differently and am much more willing to give the benefit of doubt.
But, whether guilty as accused, or not, a larger problem remains – does Bill have a case against God for not protecting his family, or himself, from painful experiences? Do any of us have any right to be angry at God for the bad that finds us unbidden, let alone that which we may have brought upon ourselves? There are many who can and will make the theological argument. This search pulls up many great pastors making the case. So what can I add? Maybe the perspective of one who was hostile to God for an extended period, who was given a second chance. Why is it that I have come to believe in God’s goodness, and that suffering is not God’s fault?
After I spent the better part of 20 years running from and denying God, I was hostile. If I heard a Christian song on the radio I couldn’t get to the knob fast enough. In the odd religious argument, I would argue with the atheist against the believer. Why was I hostile? In hindsight I see that I was denying what some small part of me deep down knew to be the truth. This inherently caused stress. And if that was not enough, I would have to argue against the truth anytime someone cared enough about me to engage.
Finally in a moment of great stress, when I thought my life was over, I cried out to God to save me. And he did. With a miracle that I that I couldn’t easily relate here. I will trust that if your mind is closed on this issue, no anecdote will convince you. And if your mind is open, you don’t need one more story, you just need to know that I am a person that God pursued and saved in spite of my not deserving it – someone who had run away and slandered him to myself and others. God cared, and stepped in.
And then bells rang, I saw a beautiful white light, heard singing and… uh, no. What really happened is that God deflated my hostility and resistance in that instant. I didn’t feel it go, I just realized later that I didn’t have it. It is difficult to believe that God is not there or doesn’t care when he answers the desperate call for saving. Mind you – I didn’t go running off to find a church – but I did go cheerfully months later when invited. When I got there and as I participated that hour, God gave me another installment of the story. I knew I was home.
Over time other pieces of the story fell into place.
- I could see that God fiercely and sacrificially loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with each of us, for eternity.
- He gave us freewill so that we could choose to have that relationship with him, or choose to reject him. Our choice.
- Having freewill means that we can hurt others, unconsciously, accidentally, or purposefully. I’ve done all of these.
- You, like me – we all make choices that lead to pain and suffering for others.
This is the crux of pain and suffering – not caused by God, but an artifact of the fact that God loves you so much that he will suffer through the pain with us so that he can let us be independent beings with freewill. Bill’s pain comes from the same cesspool that ours does – the cumulative effects of God’s independent creations doing what we do – running from him in whole or in part. The proper response to our suffering is not to be mad at or rail against God, but to come to the humble realization that pain comes from us, not God.
God is holy and perfect. We are not. When we realize this, repent of our part in the mess, and put our trust in him to fix us he will move! With our permission he can begin a work in us that he will not do without that permission. Will you give up your sin and turn to God, to get a freedom and peace that you have never known?