Reaching Back and Making the Bad Good

June 24, 2010

Not many kids pray for barbers....but it only takes hearing your dad say 'woops' once before you utter that prayer.

God created a world that would eventually have real evil, real suffering, and real sorrow. Why did he do this? Biblical answer is that God does all things for his glory. 1 Peter 4:13  says, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” I believe it is a worthwhile to compare God to the author of a novel.  The world is God’s story. He is telling a story that is full of real choices, real dangers, real consequences, and real victory. It is an exciting story but it certainly contains plenty of sorrow.

But one could answer, ” Why don’t you go tell all the starving children in the world that they are suffering because God had to have evil in his story to make it interesting. Maybe you can answer questions for them like why did God write a story? Who is the story for? Why does it have to be story?” These are serious questions and should not be taken lightly.

Like any good story there are horrible and sad parts. These parts seem not to make sense. They seem like they can’t be resolved. I believe that we are in that stage right now.

The question is, ‘can there be any recompense in the future for the suffering today?’ The answer that the Bible provides is ‘yes’. And I think it has to do with resurrection. The Biblical picture of salvation is not the pagan picture of a spiritual and disembodied heaven and hades it is the Jewish picture of resurrected life. Real people, real bodies, real restitution of anything that is lost.

CS Lewis, in the Great Divorce, speaks of our ability to go backward in our lives and reevaluate the events that we considered to be bad or good based on our new stage in life. I was raised poor and was forced to wear embarrassing old clothes to school as a kid. We couldn’t afford to go to the barber so I would go to school with amateur haircuts. I remember hating it. I hated being made fun of. I hated being poor. And I remember praying to God (although I wasn’t sure he was there) that he might give me more money so I wouldn’t be made fun of. I think there was a period where I prayed every day for clothes, money, a nicer house, a car etc. So, at that time, I viewed these events as bad and could not see how they could ever be interpreted as anything but bad.

But now, I have been blessed with a good education, a wonderful job, a nice home in a nice neighborhood, a company car and all the things I once prayed for. Now, I do interpret those events in a different light. I look back on the teasing I endured and thank God that I experienced it. It has made me a better and more sympathetic person. I look back on the poverty and thank God. It keeps me humble. I look back on my unanswered prayers and I think ‘God knew what he was doing.’ I know interpret what I once thought would always be bad as good.

CS Lewis said that Heaven reaches backward into our memories and makes the bad memories good while Hell reaches backward and makes the good memories bad (think of a man looking back on regret at the day he left his family and ran off with his mistress – it seemed so good at the time but has become a rotten and sad memory).

I am not comparing my minor suffering to the major suffering that others experience. I am attempting to outline a principle. The principle that a good future can redeem a bad past. While my bad past doesn’t compare to the bad present of many, my good present doesn’t compare to the good future that God has planned. So, if my good present redeemed my bad past, the good future that God has planned will redeem much greater evils than bad haircuts. Will it be enough to redeem starvation, rape and the rest of the evils we see? I would argue yes.

Are the events today bad? Yes. Is the story at a point where some are getting mad at the author? Yes. Is it going to work out so that all things will be put right and all will shout out with joy in the end? Yes. The book of Revelation (the last book of the bible that tells of the end of the world) states that when the dead are raised all will cry out with joy, “Holy Holy Holy”. You don’t shout out like that unless all has been fixed.

And you don’t shout out like that if your god created a boring world where there are no real risks, no real choices and no real danger.

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