In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

A God Better Than Me

Filed under: Bible,Faith,Me — Rachel at 11:22 am on Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One of the things I struggle with the most lately in regard to God and religion is a sense of justice. I am a compassionate person. I feel like this is one of my best qualities. I am very empathetic. Maybe too much so at times. This is how I end up with pregnant teenagers or addicted young adults living in my basement. This is how I end up giving large (for me) sums of money to homeless guys. This is how I find myself washing the walls in the home of an elderly man I had never met before. I think to myself, what if it was me? What if it was my child? They need help. Generally, I try to help people if it is in my power to do so.

I struggle a lot with the idea that everything is within God’s power to do so. He could heal every cancer, fill every hungry belly, and defeat every evil power. He could. Why doesn’t he?

This “why” torments me. Why does he allow such suffering. I know the party line, Christian answer. Sin, free will, etc. etc. None of that can explain away the part about God being the author of all. If he is omniscient and all powerful, he knew what his creation would become. He had the power to alter that. He wrote the whole story! Why? I also know the part about the desire to glorify himself. I just don’t understand it. He made up all the rules. It doesn’t have to be this way. But it is. And I dont’ understand how a compassionate God could allow it to be this way.

As a small child, grappling with the ideas of an eternal hell and a God that created it and sends people there, I had a lot of questions that were too big for me. I remember asking, “How could God send someone to Hell who had never heard about Him? How could he be punished for not choosing to follow a Christ he never knew existed?” The myopic answer was, “Well, dear. He told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. It’s our job to tell those people about him. That’s why it’s so important.” I’d like to go back in time and say, “Bullshit!” I want to say, “That’s not fair.” Maybe they would have tried a little harder with me. Maybe I could have jumpstarted my questioning earlier in life. Because that is a really effed up system. It’s not that bad if you are on this side of the equation. We just have to pray about our part in “God’s will” for evangelization. If we don’t feel personally “called” to go tell the poor schmuck in the darkest reaches of Africa that Jesus exists and will send him straight to Hell after they starve to death at the end of a miserable life fraught with violence and poverty, well, we can just pray for those who are called and send some money when we feel so led. Maybe a couple of times in our life we can raise money to take ourselves on a two week mission trip. We just need to be earnest and passionate about doing what we can in our own little worlds to share the gospel. This side of the equation is no big deal. Plug  yourself into the other side, though. How would you like to be that mother in Darfur? You’re only seventeen years old. You have two children. They’re both slowly dying of malnutrition. You can no longer nurse the baby because you are starving to death yourself. Oh, and, you don’t know it, but you are HIV positive after that time you were raped walking to get water last year. Death seems almost like a relief to you. Except for, oh,  yeah. You’ve never heard the name of Jesus before, and no one has of yet felt “called” to put their own life at risk to trek over here and tell you that you have to confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Son of God. So, you slowly and painfully exit a life of misery to lift up your eyes in hell?

What kind of God is that? What kind of God comes up with such a broken system? This is what I have been taught to believe. I reject it, though! I do! How can a loving God punish people eternally for not knowing him? I would not do that. I would not hold people accountable for something they had no awareness of. I wouldn’t do that because I have compassion for them. I hear a story about them and my heart breaks and I love them. If I can feel that way…me…a mere mortal who has proven to be selfish and foolish and even mean…how can the God who claims to actually be love do that? I need a God that is better than I am.

Do you hear what I am saying? I am going crazy over this. I need a God who is good and kind and compassionate, infinitely  more so than myself. I need to know that God. I don’t like this God who punishes the innocent because of some inborn sin nature. Not when he was the very one who created the whole scenario.

I don’t know how my theology needs to change for me to be able to love God again. Believe that Hell doesn’t exist? Believe in some sort of universalism that says we all get Heaven in the end? He created us with the capacity to know and value justice and righteousness and compassion and love. I have to believe that He is all those things, and that what I feel is a reflection of that. I have to believe that I was just taught something that is not true. Because it can’t be true.

It can’t be true because I need a God who is better than me.



Comment by Jan de la Vega

August 21, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

Rachel, I too struggle with this question: why does God allow such appalling misery to continue–or even to begin? As you said, if we as mere humans, can show more mercy and compassion than God does, how can He be a God of love?

Here is my limited, untrained response: God is the source of life. We cannot live apart from His creative and sustaining power. At one time, we were one with Him, living and breathing in Him. But then Adam and Eve chose to live separate, apart from the Life-giver. That is Satan’s delusion, that we can sustain ourselves without God. But without Him, our resources are limited and we compete over those resources, fighting and killing one another that we might live. God did not abandon us to that but came as one of us, Emmanuel, that He could show us how to surrender and be restored to that original existence. His death demonstrated that the worst this earthly existence could throw at us could not separate us from the Father. And He rose again, showing that the life God provides is indestructible. Those who will not surrender choose obliteration, not ever-burning hell. When something burns, it is gone in a few minutes. The results of the fire last forever, but the burning does not. Someone who never had a chance to hear the gospel as preached by some “saved saint” from America? Who knows how the Holy Spirit works? Is it only in knowing what the Bible says? Doesn’t God have other ways of getting through to us? Not to be lazy and irresponsible, but God is not dependent on us to do His work. He gives us the privilege of sharing in it, as it sounds like you have had many opportunities to do. But if God depends on us, then we have control over Him. That would make us gods.

So I do believe that God is merciful and compassionate–more than we know. I trust that even when this life is cruel and tragic, He is providing me with His life and His presence that will never be destroyed. And even as I believe He was present when my precious dog was savagely killed by another, I believe that He is close to the despairing mother and her suffering children. Their next moment will not be facing Him in hell, but in His loving arms hearing Him whisper, “Welcome home.”

Comment by amber

August 21, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

Ummm…I’m not sure how its possible, but I think you’re me… After years of toeing the party line, I started asking these same questions. And I’ve yet to get satisfactory answers. So I come to a place where I desperately want god to exist, but not in most of the ways I’ve been told he does. I find myself hating the god I see in many of t he bible stories, and sermons I’ve heard. I find myself hoping against all odds that somehow I’ve missed something, that it isn’t really the way we’ve seen it. And I don’t know what to do.

Comment by Andrew Fiddes

September 8, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

I am but a humble struggler on life’s path myself, but may offer you some hope in this case:

Jesus Christ said that loving God and loving our neighbour summarises all the law and the prophets. His comment seems a bit tongue in cheek, as the prophets preached fire and brimstone, and earthly fire and brimstone is the issue here. However, I believe God is always consistent and logical, and any inconsistency is in the logic we apply.

Thus, in loving your neighbour, you struggle with the idea that God perhaps does not love your neighbour as much. Christ offers a solution to this apparent dilemma in words such as: “in my father’s house there are many mansions”. That seems, to me anyway, to say there are many ways for God to accommodate others with what may seem like evils or inconsistencies to us. Also, helping one’s neighbour implies practical help for people we meet, which is what you do. You can only trust others and God to help those you do not meet.

We need to also love and trust God, in order to fully love our neighbours and vice-versa. The evils of the world are to test and prove our faith, as the devil has dominion in these parts. There has to be a sprinkling of things that are not nice, as when things were perfect in Eden, we were not. Eden can now only come back to those that prove they are worthy, by dealing with what is not nice. Christ is the way, etc. to now get through evil. To ask for Eden to come back, is approaching the problem the wrong way around.

I do not think there is any mileage in criticising God. It is the human reason that needs to be criticised. I hope this does not sound like too pat an answer, but I find that Christ’s actual words offer solutions to life’s apparent riddles. Such riddles are usually a result of others’ words, and the confused motives of the world.

In case you are wondering, I also struggle with the evil in the world, and sometimes give up on God. I have learnt, and need to constantly remind myself, that is the same as giving up on oneself, for God gives us everything we need, if only we can choose to see it that way, and prayerfully ask for help if we cannot see a way! Each decision we make becomes like that moment in Eden – do we trust God and do what he asks, or do we make up our own minds, without following his clear advice? I hope that helps, and remember if Christ loves us, his Father does so much more…

Comment by Dallas Romine

September 15, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

Hi Rachel, long time no see. Hang in there!

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment