Why, Lord, Why?
by Robert E. Gentet
© December 17, 2012
"O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him." (Psalm 34:8, KJV).
The Bible from cover to cover expresses God's great goodness, love and forgiveness. For us mortals who have need of His constant forgiveness, care and comfort, we can know that His love endures forever.
Yet, around us in the world, and sometimes dangerously close, is chaos and calamity! This seeming ignominy between God's goodness and the disaster that befalls us mortal humans is an age-long question. I recently posted an article entitled "Where is God in All this Mess?" And now, as more terrible crimes occur, the question continues: "Why, Lord, why?"
Some say this is not the time to give "theological" reasons for how such horrible things can be occurring in the light of our professed belief in a good God. When a plane crashes, there are both condolences and a fervent search for answers on the "whys." It is not just a matter of comforting those in grief, but a need to understand why God would allow such things to happen in the first place. Only then can we truly begin to understand how such evil can be lessened in the future.
Answers are in the book, not just any book, but the book – Holy Scripture. What can be known of God is revealed there. And it should not pass unnoticed that the second sin recorded in the Bible is a murder. It was a family murder. Cain murdered his brother Abel. All this happened in the life of the first family on earth!
Why would the good Lord who had just created mankind allow such a thing? A careful reading of the murder account reveals some insights we need yet today:
The two brothers, Cain and Abel, had different occupations. It seems that Abel was a "cattleman" and Cain was a "farmer." Their offerings to the Lord indicate this difference.
"Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock" (Genesis 4:3b-4a).
A problem arose with the two sets of offerings by the two brothers. While accepting Abel's offering, God did not accept what Cain had brought:
"But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast" (Genesis 4:4b-5).
This anger on Cain's part was not generated by any unfairness of God. Rather, the problem was that of Cain's relationship with the Lord. Cain's offering was not done from a willful heart, out of gratitude for God's goodness and mercy. It was not, as the Bible often puts our relationship with God, done out of faith. It was a mere human work that sought to earn God's favor on its own merit.
In this early world, soon after creation, God seemed to have often directly spoken to men. Such was the case here when Cain showed his anger:
"Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it'" (Genesis 4:6-7).
Cain's murder of his brother did not happen without God warning him first. God plainly told Cain that he had a responsibility. Cain's hate of his brother was not of God. His jealousy was very dangerous. It would soon get totally out-of-control if he did not master it. Innocent, yes, God-fearing Abel would be his victim. The first family who had been thrust out of the Garden of Eden for the first sin was now about to witness a horrible murder within the family!
This precedent of God's warning humans of right and wrong is a theme throughout the Scriptures. His written Word, and verbal warnings through His messengers, has continued to be there for those who have ears to hear. The blame that Abel was slain was not the Lord's, but Cain who did not listen.
Did Adam and Eve wonder why God did not prevent Cain from murdering his brother? Scripture doesn't tell us. But, perhaps they thought back to the Garden of Eden and their sin. God had also warned them what not to do, and they did it anyway. Perhaps the answer for them was still fresh and engraved in their minds: we have the free will to do or not to do what God says. We can't blame Him when we don't and it's obvious that He allows us to be tested to see what is in our hearts.
There is often a paradox within our human reasoning. God is blamed when something goes wrong, but at the same time, He is told to keep out of human affairs! We can't have it both ways! It is bad enough when humans don't heed God's warnings, but worse when His ways are no longer allowed to be taught.
One definition of hell is the absence of God. Hell is reserved for those who don't want God and His ways in their lives. As C. S. Lewis once so profoundly said: "I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside."
We have choices to make. We are responsible for our actions. And, plainly, God does not always intervene to prevent ugly events from happening. Rather, He makes clear that everyone is to give an account of his actions before the throne of God. Besides whatever judgment those who do evil deeds receive in this life, a greater and longer lasting judgment will come to all who do not turn to the Lord in repentance.
Hebrews 11 is often called the "faith" chapter of the Bible. It begins by defining what faith is:
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Heb. 1:1).
The reminder of the chapter lists the lives of many of the faithful and how in all that happened to them they lived out lives of faith. These lives of faith were not a bed of roses:
"Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves, and holes in the ground" (Heb. 11:35-38).
These tests of faith were received by them as God intended. They did not question God's goodness. But, they did feel the wrath of those who rejected God. They looked forward to the time when the final perfection would come at the resurrection of the body at the last day (Heb. 11:39-40).
So, we, too, should never blame God for the wickedness of men. Nor should we expect a carefree life because we trust in God.
The great reformer, Martin Luther, said this clearly in his famous hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God":
"The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it;
Our losses now, no matter how great they seem, can't overcome God's eternal purpose for those who love him. He is greater than them all. And even though He allows hardships and trials to afflict even those who seek Him, Scripture tells us that:
"Later on, however, it [trials] produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet.' So that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed" (Heb. 12:11b-13).
Early on Sunday morning, June 20, 1981, while fast asleep, I heard these words spoken very clearly by a beautiful male voice:
"God does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men."
Upon suddenly awakening, I realized that I had heard a voice from God, and I soon discovered it was a quote from the Book of Lamentations 3:33. I puzzled as to its meaning and why it should have been said to me.
In the many years since that morning, I have begun to understand more and more clearly the reason. Human suffering in the face of God's greatness is something we humans constantly wrestle with. The two are not contradictions but compliments. God's plan and purpose is based upon our willingness to follow His will even in adversity. Evil is the result of man's rebellion. And this truth is revealed from the very beginning of the Bible.
But a merciful God will put an end to the tragic history of man's rebellion. Someday, and Christians pray it will be soon, a loud voice from Heaven will say:
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:3-4).
To this the whole Christian Church prays: "Come, Lord Jesus. Amen."
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