Monday, March 24, 2008

Near Misses and the Problem of Pain

Just the other day, the news reported an incident at Pearlridge Shopping Center. Security guards were alerted to a man breaking into a car in the parking lot. Authorities arrived. The man had gotten into the car to steal it, started to run the car towards officers, dragged an officer, an officer shot at the car to try to stop it, and the perpetrator was killed during the gunfire.

Perhaps worse yet, the perpetrator’s wife is boohooing and pleading, because her husband was a good friend, husband, father, grandfather, greatgrandfather…yes, he’s been in trouble and on ice but he was turning his life around…blah blah blah. Well, lady, go ahead and mourn, okay. But he was obviously didn’t have his life turned around yet. They found drugs in his system, he was stealing a car and driving it into officers.

A few weeks ago, there was a random shooting at a Wendy’s in Florida. I was first told about this by Blank who is in FL and had been eating at that very Wendy’s only a few days before. Thank goodness that Blank was not there the day of the shooting and so is safe; we’ve grown accustomed to amusing each other.

I had a late class one semester that was scheduled until 9:30 but would often run till 10 p.m. One night, we got out past 10. I came home to find Mom on the couch and Dad at the kitchen sink. Dad was determinedly scrubbing the dishes. He didn’t pause to acknowledge me, just kept on going until everything was clean and went to his room. I thought he must be upset because I was supposed to do the dishes before I went to class.

Mom said Dad was worried about his daughter. The news that night reported the abduction and rape of a woman who had been taken while she was walking to her parked car. What’s more is that the woman was walking in the residential area across from the School of Architecture, where my class was. The woman had parked her car on one of the streets where my parents know I tend to park. It was dark, at night, and the woman was alone, no different than me on many such nights.

I’m sure most of us, if not all of us, have come across these sort of near misses in life. Some of us may have been hit directly. It certainly makes me think about what I would have done if I had been there, if I had been the one abducted, if I had been witness to a shooting. Certainly prompts me to pray for those who were there or will be in those moments in the future.
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Those are examples of the unexplainable evil deeds by man; we also wrestle with the unexplainable destruction by natural events like tsunamis and tornadoes and such but I want to address the evil deeds of man a little longer. When I say “man,” I use it in the universal sense and include myself in the meaning.

C.S. Lewis calls it the “Problem of Pain” and wrote a book about it. Some refer to it as the “Problem of Evil.” It’s one of the main hurdles that Christians have a tough time clearing. We don’t like to think about it because it’s hard to explain. It is something that I have a tough time answering for.

Here’s the problem: I believe in God who is all-powerful and all-good and if He is so, then why is there evil? Why do people hurt? Would not all-good God stop evil from happening since he is also all-powerful? Why would He allow us to suffer if He is good and loves us as He says he does? If it was in my power to do so, I wouldn’t let anyone I love to suffer. If man was subject to me, I wouldn’t allow man to do evil things to one another.

But that’s not what God does. Some people think that we become Christians so that we will be blessed and protected from a tough life, but God doesn’t even save those who believe in Him from pain. Oftentimes, He gives us more pain. He sure didn’t stop a young man back in December from killing two people at the YWAM training center in Colorado and He didn’t stop that same young man from moving on hours later in the day to kill more people at New Life Church also in CO. How can anyone justify a faith in God who would allow tragedy to happen to His own people? What difference does it make to believe?

I have said that I think on these things from time to time and that I don’t have all the answers yet. This is one of those where I definitely trust God more than my own understanding. I don’t know what the answer is. Others have faced the problem head on and have come away with some kind of answer and so here I will turn things over to a few whom I think have quite a good answer to the Problem of Pain and point out to where you can find their answers and look it up for yourself. If ever I say something you don’t trust, by all means I encourage you to look it up to see if what I said was true or to find something that refutes what I said. And let me know what you find because it just might be that you’ve found an answer to one of my questions.
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The director of YWAM Colorado recently tackled the issue and it was featured on the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast. In his grief, Pastor Peter Warren works out the Problem of Pain while giving out details of what happened that day of the shooting. I think he works it out quite nicely for human understanding while leaving God’s sovereignty to God. I’m not going to give his points here because I’d prefer that you hear his speech for yourself. I think I’d do a rather poor job of recapping his speech anyways, it’s very good.

Also featured on FotF were two days of broadcast interviews with the family of the perpetrator, Matthew Murray, together with one of the families of the victims, Stephanie and Rachel Works of New Life Church. They talk about the power of forgiveness and they also touch on the sovereignty of God in this situation.

I would recommend all three broadcasts to anyone who has questions about why God allows tragedy to happen. Perhaps you’re dealing with something with pain on a more private level like cancer or diabetes. Maybe you’re having trouble forgiving someone who has wronged you. Maybe the Problem of Pain is the thing that’s stopping you from making a decision for Christ. Maybe you haven’t found an answer to the problem from anyone else. Maybe you think I’m out of my mind to be a Christian and serve God, believing that He only wants the best for us.

For whatever reason, I would suggest listening to the broadcasts. You may access the broadcast for free by way of the One Place link below. The broadcast titles are “Forgiveness in the Wake of Tragedy” and “A Visit with the Murray and Works Families” which has two parts. The broadcast links should be available until Wednesday, the 26th. After that, they can be requested from the FotF resource center also linked below. I’ve also included links to articles on the tragedies that took place at YWAM and New Life for those who were not aware of them before.

I would also suggest reading C.S. Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain. I read it years ago and plan to reread it shortly. One might also want to look into Dr. James Dobson’s book When God Doesn’t Make Sense and R.T. Kendall’s Total Forgiveness. They may be found in any bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Mahalo for reading in.

Resource Links:
Focus on the Family Archive on One Place
Focus on the Family Resource Page
Article on YWAM Incident
Article in Denver Post