100 Answers in 100 Days

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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A 9 Year Old's Crisis of Faith

Recently I spoke to a friend of mine who told me that her nine year old niece no longer believes in God. Apparently this young girl, when asked why, launched into a long and emotional speech which left her in tears. She spoke quite emphatically, demanding to know “Why, if God is so powerful, are there people dying in hurricanes, and why are there kids with only a Mum and no Dad!?” And this is the point at which she began to cry. To me it seems that she’s been influenced by some atheist adult, possibly a teacher or family friend, who has put this “problem of evil” reasoning into her mind. But she’s meditated on what she’s been taught and understood it and applied it to her own situation... people dying in hurricanes is one thing, and she’s very disassociated from that; but her father left them, and for that she’s now found someone to blame other than her mother, whom she loves, or her father, whom she loves. Just like any adult who speaks about the “problem of evil”, she’s really just expressing how upset she is with the state of the world, and because God is ultimately to blame she is expressing hatred for God.

What I find interesting is that many in the Bible expressed their grief and hatred for the state of the world, including Jesus, and including God in Heaven! When Lazarus died, Jesus grieved and wept over that. And when Jesus saw the corruption of the priesthood and the faithlessness of Israel, He wept over that, and it made Him angry and upset. When God in Heaven saw the idolatry of Israel and the terrible sins they were doing, He pleaded with them as a concerned and loving Father saying “Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31). When the Psalmists expressed their grief over the state of the world, they didn’t come to the conclusion that there is no God of Love, or of Justice. Rather, they said...

Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
(Psalm 90:13-15)

In other words, “life sucks, but God can make our bitterness sweet.” And this is how any Christian views the world... nobody denies that the world is corrupt and evil, but we look to God for joy in the midst of this world. The question is, why has God “afflicted us”, as the Psalm above makes clear? Let’s put the above passage in context by citing the verses which precede it...

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:9-12)

See here, “All our days pass away under your wrath.” The reason there is hardship and death at all is because of our sins. This is precisely the curse pronounced upon Mankind in Genesis 3 as a result of Man’s sin in the garden of Eden. But this is a hard truth to receive for a self-righteous people. The real argument behind the “problem of evil” is “Why does God allow all this suffering on mankind though we don’t deserve it.” There is a false assumption made here that we don’t deserve our suffering; but the men of the Bible didn’t make this assumption. And so, for example, in the midst of Jeremiah’s grieving over the suffering God has brought upon His people, Jeremiah said “Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?” (Lamentations 3:39) This is the righteous prophet Jeremiah speaking, who also suffered much along with the rest of Israel. No one is innocent before God. The only reason, I think, that the “problem of evil” should make sense to us is when we are unaware of our own sinfulness and how serious our offenses are against God. But that, readers, describes just about everybody!

When Jesus was on the Earth He spoke of the “mission of the Holy Spirit” saying “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). The Bible teaches that God opens people’s hearts and minds to receive the gospel and to put their faith in Christ. This only happens when we begin to understand, through the Holy Spirit's influence, our sinfulness before God. We begin to see that we’re deserving of death. And when understand our sin and we come to Christ, can you imagine how our bitterness is turned to joy? We were “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:3-7) God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, but came to seek and to save the lost... to rescue us from the consequences of our sins; from this life and from death itself!

So this nine year old girl is upset with God because of the hardships in life she’s suffered. That’s understandable, but instead of hating God and denying God, acknowledging that her parents are sinners, and that she herself is a sinner would, I believe, better help her to cope with and understand what she’s going through. At the moment she wants to blame God because she doesn’t want to find fault in either of her parents, whom she loves. But if she could acknowledge her parents’ sin, she could begin to forgive them. And imagine if the hope of their whole family could be in God, to save them from their own sinfulness which led to the family breakdown in the first place! Christ isn’t about destroying families... being able to forgive will bring reconciliation! But you cannot begin to forgive if you deny that anyone is at fault. And so as the Psalmist wrote...

Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days

that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:11-12)

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