I strained to hear her voice through the long-distance static and the heavy beat of the music.
“Is this Jen? What did you say?”
“It’s Tina. She…passed away.”
“What?! How?” Her answer was muffled by the party in the background.
“It happened yesterday.” She was now almost shouting to be heard, “Listen, everyone’s staring at me. I gotta go. I’ll write. Just thought you should know.”
I worked through the rest of the afternoon in a daze. Tina, my sister, had just turned 23. Learning of her death was like reaching the middle of a book only to find The End emblazoned in bold print. This wasn’t how the story of her life was supposed to go.
Lying in bed that night, I began questioning. “Why God? Why does this make you happy? What kind of a God are you that this makes you happy? You knew her. You know how she was neglected, how she was molested by her own father. And now she awaits the judgement throne, waiting to be sent to hell! You saw how her trust was broken. How could she trust You?”
A memory rose in my mind. Tina was talking with that bored, superior voice she used sometimes, “I know I’m like supposed to be praying or something, asking God to help me and doing good or whatever, but I just want to have fun. I like my life, doing things my way.” How could I have forgotten all the times she had spoken like that, all the times God had reached out to her with truth and mercy, and how out of pride, she had rejected him again and again. I was also reminded of how she often used those around her, manipulating, using her life story as an excuse to be selfish. I was rewriting the story so that she was good, so that all humans were good, really, and God was unjust. I had made my sister into an innocent victim. But God was not judging my made-up sister.
I had done this with others as well. I had wondered about tribal people who have never heard the gospel, about children who have been taught and acculturated to love Islam, or Buddhism or Agnosticism. How could a good God punish them? But, then, how could I understand these people better than the One who made them? The One who knows their every thought and motive?
I felt God was being unjust by giving a punishment much bigger than the crime. The thing was, God knows all these crimes inside and out and he understands the weight of eternal death in exact measure. If I’m humble, I have to admit, I don’t know enough about either to judge whether the punishment fits the crime or not. And why was I trusting God on the verses about hell, but not the verses on His justice and mercy? How much did I really know about hell?
I had become like one of Job’s friends. They didn’t understand what God was doing, so they conjectured. It’s so easy to do, but it’s naive.
At times, I had even entertained the idea that the problem of evil was the Achilles heel of the Christian faith. I came to realize, though, that the “problem of evil” is not a logical dilemma at all. It is a perception problem. I struggled with this concept for years, but that night I became more aware of how limited my understanding was. I grew slower to question God and quicker to question myself. My mouth was stopped, so to say, and I began searching and listening rather than judging the Judge.
“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”
-Lewis in Till We Have Faces
Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.”
A few book helped me with my journey toward seeing God’s goodness in an evil world:
C.S. Lewis -A Grief Observed
C.S. Lewis-Till We Have Faces
C.S. Lewis- The Problem of Pain
Peter Kreeft- Making Sense Out of Suffering
The Reason for God – Timothy Keller
And, of course, the book of Job