Are Christians Atheists Too?

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Are Christians Atheists Too?

Wandering the raucous hallways of a facebook apologetics forum the other day and ran across an unbeliever who loved the “I just believe in one less God than you” argument. I mean really loved it. Moving up and down the threads, I saw him employ it numerous times in seemingly one sitting. But what’s the appeal really?

I suppose people may think it’s a winning argument because it attempts to convict the believer of the same irrationality of which we accuse the unbeliever: Certain gods do not exist. And if we, indeed, make the claim that these other gods do not exist, they are correct. We are then guilty of atheism. In such a case, we would be making a positive knowledge claim [the non-existence of god(s)] that we cannot support observationally. So I would like to advise that we cease doing so, if this is the case, but I’ll get to that later.

The atheist argument follows that the believer denies the existence of all other gods except the God of their own personal choice, presumably the God of the Bible. So we, as believers, assume our own atheism [non-existence of god(s)] or their silly “lack of belief” stance on atheism, regarding Thor and Zeus and Krishna and the like. The popular statement of this position is worded as such by atheist Stephen F. Roberts:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace has a tidy answer prepared for those who hold this position:

In every criminal trial, a jury is asked to evaluate the actions of one defendant related to a particular crime. While there are millions of other people in the world who could have committed the crime under consideration (and indeed, millions of these people were actually available to commit the crime), only one has been charged. If the jury becomes convinced this defendant is the perpetrator, they will convict him based on their beliefs. They will convict the accused even though they haven’t examined the actions (or nature) of millions of other potential suspects. They’ll render a verdict based on the evidence related to this defendant, in spite of the fact they may be ignorant of the history or actions of several million alternatives. If the evidence is persuasive, the jurors will become true believers in the guilt of this man or woman, even as they reject millions of other options . . .At the end of a trial, juries are “unbelievers” when it comes to every other potential suspect, because the evidence confirming the guilt of their particular defendant was sufficient. In a similar way, we can be confident “unbelievers” when it comes to every other potential god because the evidence for Christianity is more than sufficient.”

Wallace’s response deals with our ability to judge rationally which gods exist evidentially through argument and reason. The existence of alternative “gods” do not logically hinder our ability to find one true One or render the existence of one true God irrational. That’s Wallace’s argument. But I want to deal with the first part of Roberts’ claim.

I CONTEND THAT WE ARE BOTH ATHEISTS . . .
Atheist Stephen F. Roberts’ argument, well, maybe more of an assertion, is that atheists and theists, if they do reject other gods, do so for the same reasons. This is untrue. Theists reject other gods because of what they know. Atheists, reportedly, reject other gods because of what they don’t know (lack of belief).

See, not too long ago, unbelievers adopted a new definition for atheism. Most of them categorically reject the definition of atheism found in the “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” which calls atheism:

“Atheism” is typically defined in terms of “theism”. Theism, in turn, is best understood as a proposition—something that is either true or false. It is often defined as “the belief that God exists”, but here “belief” means “something believed”. It refers to the propositional content of belief, not to the attitude or psychological state of believing. This is why it makes sense to say that theism is true or false and to argue for or against theism. If, however, “atheism” is defined in terms of theism and theism is the proposition that God exists and not the psychological condition of believing that there is a God, then it follows that atheism is not the absence of the psychological condition of believing that God exists (more on this below). The “a-” in “atheism” must be understood as negation instead of absence, as “not” instead of “without”. Therefore, in philosophy at least, atheism should be construed as the proposition that God does not exist (or, more broadly, the proposition that there are no gods).

They have replaced the definition above with what we will call a “lack of belief”. This position, if they would even agree to call it one, conveniently makes no knowledge claims. This is the upside for the god-denier. No propositions to defend. This “lack of belief” holds that theism must do the heavy lifting to convince them of our claim, since they have made none. The downside of this tactic is that atheism now lacks, among other things, explanatory power. A “lack of belief” only describes a personal deficiency and not reality. Atheism, as such, ceases to have cultural relevance as defined here, since non-beliefs cannot motivate or comment on or improve anything.

ANATOMY OF A TRAP
So Roberts’ argument now becomes a trap, volleying the adherent between two definitions. The unbeliever must admit that they reject gods because of a personal deficiency, rendering the position impotent, or they must make a positive claim that NO gods exist, a knowledge claim that they cannot support with evidence. They can’t really do both, can they?

While theism, Christianity in particular, continually seeks to explain the universe through reason, science, history, and philosophy, atheism reverts to “feels” and spiraling nihilism.

BUT ARE WE ATHEISTS TOO?
But are we atheists too? Well, God never makes these claims. In fact, He acknowledges other “gods” quite boldly in scripture:

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” Deut 10:17.

“Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:2.

“For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:3.

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on *all the gods of Egypt* I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.” Exodus 12:12.

“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:” Psalm 82:1.

“For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Cor 8:5-6.

And an article by Elizabeth Sloane from www.haaretz.com, an online edition of the Haaretz Newspaper in Israel reasons:

Early Judaism did not deny the existence of other gods. The Biblical story of Exodus categorically acknowledges and affirms the existence of other gods. It paints the plagues of Egypt not just as war on the pharaoh, but as a war on the gods of Egypt: “Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments” (Ex. 12.12).”

Some may counter with examples of many other passages in scripture that seem to directly contradict the verses above. But what are they saying when they use the word “god” or “gods”. These are man-made idols. These are creations of creation, not of our Good Good Father. None of these stand in opposition to the God of the Bible on their own. They exist but not as the One True God who is worthy of worship, but as idols. False gods. Unholy machinations of our fallen nature.

So, no. We are not “both atheists”. We do not fall into contradiction claiming things we cannot determine through reason and evidence, like the non-existence of false deities. We continue to be able to explain reality by appealing to what best fits the evidence and not revert to a weak position of “lack of belief”.

God Bless.

https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/do-atheists-believe-in-just-one-less-god-than-christians/
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/#DefiAthe
https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium.MAGAZINE-what-if-god-didn-t-really-care-if-we-worship-other-gods-1.5459638

Comforting The Sufferers

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 New International Version (NIV):

3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

 

Does the Bible verse above describe how you usually respond to suffering?  I bet not. At best, my response to suffering results in my pulling away quietly from reality, hedging myself in with sports or books or movies, so I don’t have to deal.  Denial. At worst, I lash out at people who are not the cause of my trial.

The verse above probably best describes how I respond to other people’s suffering.  “Don’t worry about it.  It’ll pass. You’ll be stronger for this.”  As I type I notice that what I say isn’t false, it’s true, but most often I tend to refer to truth when I don’t need to be the one to live it.

Opportunity for Unbelievers

So often we hear atheists snicker about the existence of a loving God who has a suffering people.  To them, this is incoherent. If God is all-powerful and He loves you, why do you suffer, they ask.  They use these instances to play on our propensity to avoid the problem. That we may act on the call of our hearts to lash out, instead of reach out.

But when you consider atheism, you should know that this is, in fact, the incoherent worldview.  Atheism does not provide answers to the problem of evil; it just eliminates it as a problem.

If this is a God-less existence, what is suffering?  See, suffering can only be seen as bad or wrong or something that ought not happen if we have an understanding of what ought to be.  Atheism, if true, eliminates oughts.  

An ought-less world is one in which what happens just happens.  It’s a world of chocolate or vanilla choices and chocolate or vanilla results.  Nothing is good or bad. Things are just different, but equal in value, like the choice between chocolate or vanilla ice cream.  After all, who’s to say that one flavor is better than the other? What proof can we submit to decide? (Hint: It’s chocolate. Or is it?)  An existence without a standard of what ought to happen reduces life to these kind of choices.

Thus, every complaint or displeasure can only describe the condition of the complainer and says nothing truthful of the deed done or object of the complaint.  So, as such, the unbeliever lacks the ability to describe or explain reality. Truth exists within only their personal whims and not as something that exists apart from them.  For example, displeasure of being punched in the nose only describes the way the punched individual feels about the event and not the potential wrongness of the act itself against them.  But nobody really lives this way. That’s the incoherence of atheism.

So when unbelievers try to play us against God because of our sufferings, they entirely miss the point.

God’s Plan for Suffering

The point of suffering according to the text above is to establish God as the “Father of compassion” and the “God of comfort”.  Notice 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 doesn’t tell us that troubles won’t occur. People of God were never promised a trouble-free life. These are the heretical rantings of false prophets and prosperity gospel preachers.  It says we will be comforted in our troubles. (v.4) This comfort is found in the Cross.

When reading this verse, it is important to understand that this letter is written by Paul on behalf of himself and his traveling companion Timothy to the church in Corinth.  So when he uses the words “we” and “our”, in some cases, he is referring to himself and Timothy. “You” and “your” is referencing the church in Corinth. In other cases, these words refer to Paul, Timothy, and the church all together as believers.

So not only does God comfort us (everyone) in our troubles through the saving work of Christ, we are to use this truth to comfort others.  Paul achieves this by acknowledgement God’s well-known sustaining acts within Paul’s life. The afflictions of persecution, imprisonment, threats of death, anxieties and impoverishment, for those, God has provided a peace for Paul and in turn, he passes on comfort to those also in trouble.  “If we (Paul and Timothy) are distressed, it is for your (Corinth) comfort and salvation; if we (Paul and Timothy) are comforted, it is for your (Corinth) comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we (Paul and Timothy) suffer.” (v.6)

So it is easy enough to understand the afflictions for which Paul has received comfort.  But what form did this comfort take for Paul? Bible commentator Colin G. Kruse describes Paul’s deliverance from his affliction, like deadly peril, as one of the ways that God provided comfort for him.  He also details relief from anxieties that Paul experienced when Titus joined him in Macedonia. It, however, is clear that he was never exempt from persecution and trial because of God providing comfort.  Kruse also offers that “up to the time of writing God has delivered Paul out of all his afflictions in the sense that none of them had proved fatal” (p.61, TTNTC)

Now, why should troubles occur in the first place?  Again, what is the point?

The answer has much to do with our sin.  Clay Jones, in his terrific book “Why Does God Allow Evil”, gives a short answer:

“God could not simply excuse Adam and Eve’s sin because the lesson to free beings would then be ‘Sin is okay, God will overlook it.’ But to demonstrate His love for us and to atone for the grave seriousness of sin, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for rebellious humans.  Now, we humans who trust God and accept Jesus’ death on the cross of our sins learn the horror of rebellion through experiencing rebellion’s devastating results. We are also learning to overcome evil with good. This knowledge prepares us to be fit inheritors of God’s kingdom, where– because we are learning the horror and stupidity of sin here on earth– we will be able to use our free will rightly as we reign with Jesus forever and ever.” (p.208)

Know that much of the quote above deserves further explanation and that is what Jones’ informative book provides.

So according to Jones, God has a reason for our suffering.  He has a plan the eventually leads us to being in His presence “forever and ever”.  We play a part in this as believers. We comfort those who suffer because we have found comfort in the finished work of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

May you personally find this kind of comfort in your life.

God Bless.

 

Source:  The Tyndale New Testament Commentary of 2 Corinthians by Colin G. Kruse (p. 61, TTNTC)

Standing On Our Christian Convictions

Penn2

Came across this quote today on facebook.  I had seen it before. But something was different about it today.  Now, likely nothing was actually different about it. More likely, something was different about me.  Ever have that? You see things day in, day out but you never really notice them. Or you notice them differently now than you did then?  That’s the way this quote worked on me today.

The person who posted this wondered aloud if Penn Jillette was softening is views on the existence of God.  Penn, a vocal atheist, hasn’t, to my knowledge, announced or renounced anything. And my thoughts about this quote do not really deal with his non-belief, but, in fact, our belief.

See, he seems to understand our purpose as Christians better than we do (sometimes).  And I have never said that about an atheist before now. Normally, atheists and agnostics get just about everything regarding our faith wrong.  Most of the time, they even get the definition of Christian faith wrong from the start. But here, he asks, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”  He sees that the believer’s act of delivering the Good News as an urgent God-directed mission of love, as we should. But do we really?

Penn offers that we may fear an awkwardness in our relationship with others if our actions are somehow rebuffed.  From his perspective, he just doesn’t believe that it’s real. His personal conviction is that God isn’t real, so this isn’t something of value.

But to believers, it must be real.  After all, this is our worldview. Our conviction is that God stepped down from His throne, into time, in the human form of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This God-Man then, in order to rescue those who love Him, sacrificed Himself to pay for their sins, while they were still sinners. He atoned for their (our) rotten deeds in a way that the Old Testament sacrifices could not.  With the blood of a perfect sacrifice. Our conviction is that Grace prevailed over our depraved nature and those who love God are now new creations. And our Lord has entrusted with us this message to the world.

So if these are our convictions, “How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?”  Maybe it’s not hate, maybe it’s fear.  Or worse, maybe, we simply lack conviction. Because if we believe that the Cross that took the life of our Savior is the only way that the world can gain eternal life, for what reasons are we keeping this to ourselves?

Friends, if it is a lack of conviction, there are ways to know that what we believe is true.  There is information that we can attain that answers our reasonable doubts. We have the goods.  We can be bold in our actions. We need not be defensive or harsh. We need not shrink from challenges to our faith.  You can also pray for help with your unbelief or for God to continue His work in you, a maturing of your spirit.

Or maybe it is that we aren’t sure of our own salvation?  Could that be? But, as believers, we know that the greatest commandment tells us to love God and love each other.  So when we evangelize, when we share the Gospel, in doing so, we assure ourselves of the genuineness of our faith every time because, how much must we have to love somebody (God) to trust His Word and put it into action despite relentless chirping of a contrary culture that worships idols of comfort and greed? In addition, how much must we have to love somebody (others) to risk our relationship with them and tell them the truth that:  God is real, the Cross is real, and the Resurrection is true.

May we show love that changes lives.  And if for some reason we don’t, may we seek to change that about ourselves, God helping us.

God bless.

Church, Where Is Your Joy?

Joy

Today in church, we were awarded a special treat. We witnessed a profession of faith and two baptisms and a testimony. While professions of faith and baptisms are an absolute blessing to the church, this post will focus exclusively on the testimony. Allow me to paraphrase the joyful message we heard below:

After being challenged to confess her sins to God by her unchurched mother, she feels guilt for avoiding church and putting it off, so, alone with her child, she finally gives in and confesses. When she does this, she did so completely with an open mind and an open heart. To her amazement, she heard words, though not with her ears, that she had not used before this moment. The words were not hers, but they were spoken into her heart. And then, she confessed.

After her confession, since she had missed church, she found a church service streamed online. The sermon mentioned Isaiah 43:18-19.

She quickly looked up this verse in the pages of a used teen study bible someone had given to her. Within the Word of God, she read the verse, noting not only God’s answer to her confession, but that out of every verse in her used study bible, this verse was the only one marked with a highlighter. The only one. Through His Word God told her:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:18-19

While it occurred to me and many others that a wonderful thing had happened to her, later, I thought of something else. Much of what happened to this young lady we can see fits into a portion of our church order of worship.

http://network.crcna.org/worship/historic-order-worship

Some churches have a different order and may have slimmed it down to just a few headings, but in this order, we have Gathering/Praise, Confession, Proclamation, Response to the Word, Lord’s Supper, and Sending. I am, of course, paying close attention to the Confession section of worship here. Within that section we have sub-headings: Call to Confession, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon, Passing the Peace, and Response to Thanksgiving.

It occurred to me that God had lead her through part of this order of worship without the presence of a pastor, worship leader, choir, or congregation. Our Good Good Father came down to meet her in her own living room and, with Him and her baby son, she had church there. She experienced the Holy Spirit Calling her to confession through her mother. God lead her through her Prayer of Confession. God, then, Assured her of His plans for her in Isaiah 43:18-19. She received Peace from the Lord over the condition of her heart and along with that, a desire to joyfully tell others what He has done for her in Thanksgiving.

My telling of this event in this way is not to say that these things (pastor, worship leader, etc,) are unimportant, but to show that we as believers in Christ and church-goers get to follow this order of worship every week and some of us can still remain unmoved by it.  Why is that?

Unless you were there, it is hard to adequately describe the energy and joyfulness by which she had told us what God had done for her.  The room was electrified.  And why shouldn’t it be?  God performed a miracle on this woman’s heart just as He has for you and me.  I find the joyful manner by which she delivered her message to be almost as important as the Word she shared with us.  My hope, going forward, is that those blessed to be in attendance will not let this detail fade from their memories.  It is for this reason I humbly ask: Church, where is your joy?

Please pray with me: Lord, if we haven’t felt this way in a while, may this be us again.

God Bless.

Pain, Suffering, and a Good Good Father

pain-and-suffering-lawsuit

A few weeks ago, my wife and I saw a film called “Miracles From Heaven”.  It was okay, as faith-based films go.  It was based on a true story about a young girl and her family as she struggles with a disorder that prohibits her from digesting food properly.  We were drawn to this story because the young girl’s disorder is similar to the rare condition our daughter has called Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome (SMAS).   Again, a fine family film about believers facing tough situations.  There is a point in the film, however, where the mother, played by Jennifer Garner, asks her pastor a familiar question:

Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?  

At this point in the film, the mother is disillusioned with her faith.  She refused to return to her church because the answers didn’t seem to be there.  The pastor didn’t even seem to know how to answer her question.  His response was something like, “I don’t know, but God loves you.”  It was an answer as unsatisfying to me as it was the movie mom up on the screen.

The popular lament calls into question God’s loving nature.  It asks how can He be truly loving if turmoil exists in the lives of even those who love Him.  Skeptics, ultimately, use this idea as a backdoor way to promote doubt for God’s existence, making it easier for those who are swept up in the emotional nature of their burdens to adopt their premise.  Truth is, when you factor in our gift of freewill and God’s purpose in creation, the presence of pain and suffering actually supports the existence of a loving Good Good Father.

At this point, I would like to caution my readers that the reasons for pain and suffering discussed in the article may not comfort someone currently facing a trial or burden.  The ideas here may seem insensitive in the wake of whatever hardships lay before them.  My hope is that we all may understand more deeply the function of pain and suffering in our lives.  The last thing I would want is for my words to inflame an already emotional situation.   So please, if you are struggling with something big, you are welcome to save this article for a better time.

That said, “Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering” is, nonetheless, an important question that has been asked for centuries.  It was the ancient philosopher Epicurus who asked:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.  Is he able, but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil?  Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?”

See, the thinly veiled accusation here is that since pain and suffering exists, a creator God who doesn’t act against it lacks value.  

So what, specifically, would a loving God have to alter to effectively banish these situations from the world?  To start, it seems that much pain and suffering could be prevented if God would simply limit our freedom of choice.  I mean, do we not suffer for the most part because of our bad choices?  Bankruptcy comes from poor choices with money.  Marital strife can emerge from the choice to lust for someone other than your spouse.  Friendships often dissolve due to our choice of words.  Bottom line, most times of trouble in our lives happen due to actions we take that we could simply stop, but we don’t.  So why doesn’t God simply eliminate these poor choices for us?  So that stealing, for example, just isn’t an option.  Clearly, if pain and suffering were not to exist, He would have to do this, right?

But then, we have another problem.  If God halts our ability to choose wrongly, doesn’t He, at the same time, prevent us from choosing rightly?  In encouraging God to act in this manner, don’t we relinquish the ability to define what is right?  Or what is right about humanity?

So what, you might say.  We would have a greater, better world.  One without divorce, incarceration, hurt feelings, and rejection.  The list of examples could go on and on.

Right.  But in what kind of reality would this leave us?  We currently live in a world where the shadows prove the sunshine.  Meaning that within the weaknesses of humanity, we also find our strengths. So it stands to reason that, in eliminating our weaknesses, we lose those strengths as well.  For example, since villains wouldn’t exist, neither would heroes.  There wouldn’t be victory without loss.  The concept of sacrifice would be just that, only a concept, if not played out in real life.  And can love truly exist in a world without the option of hate?  Ultimately, a world without the shadows leaves us in a world without the sunshine.

You might say, fine, but there are plenty of things that cause pain and suffering that don’t rely on our choice.  For example, hurricanes, famine, and cancer in children.  Why wouldn’t a loving God stop even these things from happening?

I would then ask if God’s “loving” act of stopping these events would actually satisfy the person asking this question?  For instance, what if God rid the world of hurricanes?  Would the skeptic now believe that God was loving and good?  Or would they continue down their list to the next item that causes pain and suffering?  Would they say, “Wait, it’s nice that we don’t have hurricanes anymore, but how can a loving God allow famine?”  Childhood cancer?  In response, God bans famine and childhood cancer from His creation.  Gone.  Now is God loving and good?  Would this satisfy the questioner when there are still things like earthquakes, floods, and droughts in existence?   Interestingly, as we go down the list, each of the most heinous violations become less egregious than the one before it.  Humanity would continue to cry out over the hardship of mental illness all the way down to the relatively benign discomfort of a simple hangnail.  Clearly, if we suppose God can only be loving based on his removal of pain and suffering from the universe, he can’t truly be loving and good if ANY examples of pain and suffering still exist no matter how small.

So how can God still be loving and good despite the presence of pain and suffering in our lives?

Well, to start, we need to go way back to the beginning of time.  It is widely accepted by the scientific community that the universe had a beginning.  The beginning may have started with a massive explosive event (Big Bang?).  In order for this to happen there needs to be a limitless, overwhelmingly powerful, immaterial, and personal mind that dwells outside of time and space to cause it to happen. Something not confined by the physical forces created in the presumed Big Bang explosion.  This is what we call God.  So before the creation of the universe, there was nothing.  No-thing.  And because God decided to, He created the universe.  His decision is the reason there is something instead of nothing.

The important part of His character for this discussion is his personal nature.  Meaning, he chooses to create.   And when something is created, it presupposes purpose.  Otherwise, why create?  Why create something when nothing will do? 

Because of God’s purposeful continual creative actions in the universe, isn’t it reasonable that our Good Good Father has a purpose for our pain and suffering too?  Even the tough seemingly unexplainable examples like childhood cancer?  Certainly, our limited understanding serves to prevent us from understanding the motives of a limitless, powerful, immaterial, and personal God.  For example, put yourself in place of the young daughter in the illustration below.

A father knows that in order to keep his young daughter safe from sickness and disease that she must endure an uncomfortable shot, a vaccination.  Due to limited knowledge, the child cannot see past the pain felt in that moment as the needle pierces her skin.  Frightened and confused, she wonders why this is happening.  She thinks, “My father is supposed to love me and take care of me.  How could he bring this pain upon me?  How could he stand by and let this happen?”

It isn’t until years pass and the daughter matured, having her own child, that she saw the value of the vaccination that she barely remembered as such a terrible betrayal.  Having gained more knowledge about the world, She realized that the pain and fear she felt was, in fact, a small price to pay for the sake of her health.  Best of all, she completely understood that her father loved her.

Are you familiar with how the young daughter feels?  What about the daughter, now older, in the second paragraph?  Of course, in this illustration, the father represents God and the daughter is all of us, His children.  So possessing the knowledge of children, in comparison to His knowledge, it is likely that we would not know His plans right now in the midst of our struggle, but the Bible, His inerrant word, tells us He is for us (Romans 8:31).  He loves us so much that He allowed His son to die so that we may one day live forever with Him.  So, faced with this great sacrifice, we are challenged to trust in Him and in His purpose for us.  Author Kevin DeYoung offers some insight in his book, “The Good News We Almost Forgot”:

“This is a sad world we live in, one in which God not only allows trouble, but at times, sends adversity to us.  Trust, therefore, does not mean hoping for the absence of pain but believing in the purpose of pain.”

DeYoung’s words highlight how we are often trapped within our struggles.  We rather hope for the absence of pain instead of it’s purpose.  The good news is that purpose opposes indifference.  Purpose infers a goal, an ending.  A plan.  The existence of purpose means that all the pain and suffering we face is not wasted.

Our daughter has a day-to-day struggle with pain from her condition.  She doesn’t always share with us how she feels, choosing instead to tough it out in order be treated like a normal teenager.  My wife has had to learn to sense when she’s having trouble most of the time.  Other times, it’s quite obvious.  My daughter can’t always eat what everyone else eats or be active after eating.  As a young girl, doctors accused her of being anorexic because she simply could not keep her food down and her symptoms fit the profile.  She’s dealt with long periods of time with a feeding tube fed through her nose into her stomach.  And my wife had to spend years tirelessly searching for medical advice for a disorder that, at the time, only hundreds of people, in history, have been diagnosed.  So why did a loving God let her be afflicted with this?  

There’s that question again.  At this point, it feels like the wrong question to ask.

Maybe we should ask, “What does our loving Good Good Father want with her?  Or, Lord, what are you trying to show us?  What are you preparing us for?”  Because what I believe is that with our daughter’s SMAS, our Good Good Father is making her who He created her to be.  Who she needs to be to fit His purpose for her life.  And if we do not understand this purpose right now, that’s okay.  We can trust that one day we might, God willing.

God bless.