Tough Questions

I got this question from a reader of my blog. It is a great question and one that others probably have too.
Therefore, I decided to respond in a post. However, I must make it clear that this is my opinion and I am sure there are people (and other Christians) who will not agree with what I have to say. But, this question was asked of me, and this is my humble opinion…

Hi Kameron – Thanks for sharing your story.

 

I’ve got a question for you. As someone from another religion, I sometimes feel frustrated hearing about how the Christian god helps people adopt. What I end up thinking is, why didn’t he help that particular child earlier, when he was still with his family? Why not get money to his mother to care for him, or correct the social circumstances that lead to a child being available for adoption in the first place?

 

I don’t mean this in a sarcastic way – it just feels so sad to me that any child has to go through all this in order to have a family. Losing your family for any reason is huge, and very, very sad, regardless of what happens afterward.

 

What are your thoughts?

 

Thanks.

Dear Concerned Mom,
I totally understand and respect your question. I think it is a great question that anyone who cares about the hurts of fellow human beings would ask. The answer would be better discussed in person over coffee… but since this is how we are communicating, I will give it a shot.

I want to start by giving you a little history about my journey…

I became a dedicated Christian about 12 years ago, when my father was on his deathbed and I was faced with the hard question of what happens to us after we die and I wanted to know where my dad would end up. The on site hospital Chaplin told me that since my dad was a good man, he would go to heaven, and that just did not sit right with me. I knew he was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear, rather than what the “truth” was.  I had just graduated college with a double major in Social Science and  Liberal Studies with a minor in History and Sociology, and  researching and anthropology were 2 of my passions, so it was natural for me to investigate all the major religions in search of the “truth”. At that time I had more of a universal view of religion… many ways to get to heaven (whatever heaven was)… and one of my questions about “God” was exactly what you mention here… how could “God” allow all of this heartache to happen on earth? During my research I came to the conclusion that Christianity is the one true religion (maybe someday I will write about all of that) and I came to understand the true character of the Christian God, which all plays into the answer to your question.

As a believer in the Christian God, this is what I believe: God created the world to be perfect. That means no sin, no hurt, no sickness, no poverty, no pain. God is only good and love. Nothing evil or sinful is the result of God. However, God did not create humans to be like robots who would blindly obey Him and His commandments (or rules of how to live a good, loving, peaceful, respectful life). He created human beings to be individuals and have opinions, choices and free will (just as angels in Heaven do, which is how Satan and his demons ended up existing. They chose to leave God and Heaven, and God would not stop them. They have free will to do what they want). God does not force anyone to love or obey Him.

So, at the beginning, the Earth was perfect and there was no pain or suffering. But then the first humans, Adam and Eve, made a decision, as a result of free will, to go against what God wanted them to do, and they sinned. At that moment, sin entered the previously perfect world and with that, so did pain, suffering, disease, disappointment, abuse, hunger, poverty, greed and everything else that is anti-God (or anti-good or anti-love…).

Since that time, all humans have had that same choice; to do what is right and good (which is what God desires) or to sin. Because sin (like greed, abuse, selfishness, violence, suppression, anger, materialism, self absorption…) is rampant in our world, people suffer. Hunger, pain, poverty, death, decay, illness, disease, war, violence… all the things that have caused the orphan crises and hurt millions of children, are not the result of God, it is the result of sin.

You have to understand that God’s heart BREAKS for the hurting. He is not far off, watching people suffer. He is WITH the poor and hurting. When Christ walked the Earth, He  hung out with and lived with the people who the world had abandoned. He lived with and loved the poor, needy, hurting, sick, the prostitutes and thieves. He touched the outcasts like the lepers and the homeless. In fact, Jesus was homeless himself.

I love this quote from Richard Stearns (the President of World Vision):

This is a paraphrase from Matthew 25 (a well known Bible verse) by Richard Stearns. In Matthew 25, Jesus is speaking when He says:  “For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved.”

You see, Jesus is WITH the poor, lonely, persecuted, frightened, hungry, punished, confused, abused, exiled, stepped on, ignored, homeless, orphaned, widowed, abandoned and needy. If we love Jesus, then we love the needy, poor, forgotten…. When we love these people, we love Jesus.

So… If God loves the hurting and needy of our world,  and His heart breaks for them, then why doesn’t He just point His finger at the impoverished, frightened, heart broken mother who has no choice but to abandon her child? Again, that is hard to answer here… but I will try to touch on it.

You must remember that this world is not perfect, like God had originally created it to be. It is now broken and full of sin. And with that sin comes hurt and pain. God is  not a distant being, a spectator. He is a loving Father. And just like any loving Father, He is with us. He is with the poor and hurting. Bad things happen in life simply because we live in a broken world. Just like any loving parent, God’s job is not to simply insulate us so that we never experience pain, but rather be there to comfort and encourage us when pain comes.

Think of your own child… As parents we desperately want to protect our children from pain, disappointment, hurt feelings, physical suffering. Yet, we also know that pain and suffering are part of life and essential to growing into mature, responsible adults. We, as good parents, use these hard times to teach our children to have empathy, the concept of action and consequence, responsibility, kindness, patience, respect, and hard work among many other life lessons. If we sheltered our children from any possible pain, they would grow up to be selfish, self absorbed,  unsympathetic brats. So just like we do as loving parents, God also uses the pain that comes our way to grow and mature us.

God also uses times of hardship and heartache to show us His greatness and remind us how close He really is. When something bad happens and we turn to Him in prayer, He has the opportunity to come to us and show us His love. When we are in a hard place and we feel God’s love through a miracle, we remember that He is here. But if we never experienced any hardship, we probably would  never pray, and we would not have any type of relationship with Him and we would not look for His loving hand to come and deliver or comfort us.

We must also recognize that God uses His followers (Christians) to perform miracles. Yes, Miracles. When Christians act selflessly and give to those in need, they are doing the will of God and God is using them to answer prayers . Yes, He can and does use non-believers too, but it is not their “responsibility” to do good and be the “hands and feet” of Christ. Christians are charged with the specific job of doing God’s work, and when God “prompts” His believers to do something selfless, a miracle happens. But when that “believer” or “Christian” ignores God’s prompting (or nudge or whatever you call it), the miracle is halted. God wants His people to work His miracles.

And what is God’s work? To love. Period. We are to love God, and we are to love others. When Christians love others, they give what they have to help end poverty, they take in orphans and widows and the homeless. They think of others before themselves. They give and live selflessly, to the point that it hurts and is uncomfortable.

Honestly, there will always (until the end of this world) be sin, pain and suffering in this world, and the problem with this world is not God, it is us, people, and sin. And a big problem is with the “church” (that is, the body of believers who call themselves “Christians”).

I hate to say it, but many, many, many Christians I know are not living the way Christ wants them to. I have to take a hard look at myself too… I have extra food in my pantry and rooms in my home while there are starving and homeless in my community. How is this right? What does Christ want me to do?????

Yes, we/they try to live respectable lives and not live as drunkards, watch porn, commit adultery, use foul language… but do they do anything else (aside from donating food occasionally to the local food bank or giving a few bucks to some noble cause) to help their fellow man? Do they really put others before themselves and make themselves last and others first (which is ALL throughout the Bible)? I would say “no”. And the evidence that I have that we, as believers, are failing to be the hands and feet of Christ is the fact that there is so much suffering in this world. If people who called themselves “Christians” really obeyed God (which is what a “Christian” is supposed to do) they would be hard at work helping solve all of the things that cause poverty, which cause the orphan crises in the first place.

So… back to your question about why God allows all of the pain and suffering that leads to a child becoming an orphan? Honestly, I think we need to ask ourselves that same question? Why do WE allow all of the pain and suffering? And yes, I believe the “we” is every human being, regardless of their faith. I believe every human should care for their fellow people and help them selflessly. But with Christians, there is an added level of responsibility that comes with claiming our faith. And when we die, He will ask us why we did not, as proclaimed followers of Him, do what He asked of us and love others above ourselves.

I love this quote by St. Francis of Assisi:Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” St. Francis is saying that the best way to tell people about God’s love is through our actions rather than our words. Unfortunately, today most Christians use their words, rather than actions. And when non-believers look at the way Christians live, they don’t see the true heart of God. They see people who say one thing and do another. They see hypocrites.

With all this said, please do not look at the “Christians” in your neighborhood as a true representation of God’s heart. Remember, Christians are sinful humans too and we will never, ever, ever reflect the true character and love of Christ. But rather, to answer your question deeper and understand what exactly it means to be a follower of Christ, I recommend you read a few “extreme” books that many within the Christian faith find very uncomfortable (well, my first “book choice” is the Bible, but that is pretty heavy and really BIG, so it would take a long time for someone unfamiliar with the Bible to find the answers you are looking for). Therefor I suggest a few books that are written from a Biblical perspective and specifically address the issues of poverty and pain, and what God expects us, as believers, to do.

These books are The Hole in Our Gospel By Richard Stearns (the President of World Vision); Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by David Platt; Crazy Love By Francis Chan; and When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

I also want to direct you to a Bible Study on God’s heart for the Poor. It will help show you, by using scripture, how God loves the needy and poor so very, very much.

Sorry this answer was so long (it could have easily gone longer but I cut myself off:). Thanks so much for asking such an honest question in a respectful way.
Love,
Kameron