Sometimes we make the foolish assumption that our heavenly Father has no right to insist that we trust Him unless He makes His infinite wisdom completely understandable to us. But if God offered us constant explanations for the circumstances we face, our lives would not be free or normal, and would not allow for faith or trust.
I think of my friend John Franklin, who was playing softball when he was then a healthy thirty-nine-year-old. John developed a headache and neck pain, so he took himself out of the game. By the time the game finished, he needed help walking.
Taken to the hospital, John became completely paralyzed and unable to speak. Soon he was breathing with a ventilator. John spent seven weeks in ICU and another four months in the hospital. He underwent speech therapy, then a few years of occupational and physical therapy. Now, over twenty years later, John remains restricted to a wheelchair. Doctors never discovered why it happened.
John’s youngest son, six years old when his father became disabled, wrote me, “I remember always being so mad that God did this to him. One day I asked my dad why he wasn’t angry. He said, ‘Why should I accept good from God and not evil?’ I think my jaw dropped and at the time I was angry at him for saying that. But that experience has forever shaped my view of God and evil.”
This wonderful family has certainly seen God at work. But they still have no clear explanation of his purpose for John’s disability.
Consider what our lives would be like if God regularly explained to us why He allows everything that disappoints us.
Suppose you’re a teenage girl, sick on prom day. God could whisper, I let you get pneumonia so you wouldn’t bond with that young man who wouldn’t be right for you, and so your parents would go get you your favorite dessert, where they’ll see a help-wanted poster and tell you so you apply and get the job, and meet the girl who will become your best friend and help you twenty years from now when your husband gets cancer, and...
“Whoa! My husband? What’s he like? And why would you let him get cancer?”
In order to make you more Christlike and help you become more of a servant and...
“But I don’t want to be a servant. And cancer terrifies me!”
...and teach your husband to depend on me, and draw your children and grandchildren closer to you, and...
“I’ll have children and grandchildren? How many? Girls or boys? But how will they deal with their father’s cancer?”
Do you see where this is going? And it’s just one “simple” event. How could God explain His purposes without revealing to us the life He intends for us to live later, not now? And without imparting the grace that He will give us just when we need it, not in advance?
The God of providence weaves millions of details into our lives and into all the lives around us. Maybe He doesn’t have one big reason for bringing a certain person or success or failure or disease or accident into our lives; in fact, He may have hundreds of little reasons. In order to understand God’s explanations, we would have to be God.1
If you’d like to read more related to the subject of evil and suffering, see Randy’s book If God Is Good, as well as the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness and book The Goodness of God (a specially focused condensation of If God Is Good, which also includes additional material). Many people have also handed out the If God Is Good booklets.