Friday, December 06, 2013

Why Does God Allow Evil to Persist?

This may be one of the hardest questions that we all face at some point in our lives. It is true for both Christians and non-Christians as well. We look around at the world and wonder why things are so bad at times. It seems pretty obvious that things are not as good as we would like them or as we think they should be. And that can lead to one of the all time hardest and most pointed question that Christians will face from non-Christians.

The question can be sincere and come at a time of struggling to make sense of personal or even global tragedy. We can look at the senseless killing and violence in the world; the untimely death of a loved one; the injustice perpetrated on one group of people by another; the high death count found in a natural disaster and earnestly seek to understand why these things happen.

Sometimes the question can be very pointed–even accusatory–and come out of great bitterness when looking at the personal consequences of these events.
And still other times the question can be very judgmental and meant to put those that believe in a God like the Christian God in their place.
"If your God is so good, all knowing and all powerful then why doesn't he do something about all these bad things that keep happening?"
And that is a fair question.

I have touched on this question before and that post has a number of good links to help make sense of the problem. But I came across an answer this morning as I was reading Romans 2 that I had not noticed before. Let me be clear that this answer is not meant to be a complete answer. It doesn't really address the natural disaster or illness aspect of the question. Rather it gets at why God allows evil people to commit evil seemingly without immediate consequences.
Paul starts off chapter 2 of Romans by saying in verse 1:
"Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you the judge, practice the very same things."
Paul ended chapter 1 by making the point that when we give up worshiping God we end up doing a whole bunch of evil things which he lists:
  • Unrighteousness
  • Evil
  • Covetousness
  • Malice
  • Envy
  • Murder
  • Strife
  • Deceit
  • Maliciousness
  • Gossips
  • Slanderers
  • Haters of God
  • Insolent
  • Haughty
  • Boastful
  • Inventors of evil
  • Disobedient to parents
  • Foolish
  • Faithless
  • Heartless
  • Ruthless
That is quite a list and Paul's point is that we cannot condemn those actions in others without also condemning ourselves. We have to be honest about our own shortcomings which is one of the major points of Christianity. Here is where Paul offers us a brief glimpse at why God allows evil to persist. In Romans 2:3-4 Paul says:
"Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?"
Paul is telling us that God doesn't immediately punish evil because he wants us to repent. He is giving us a second...third...fourth...fifth...sixth...hundredth...thousandth...(you get the point) chance. God is giving us the opportunity of our whole lives to repent and unfortunately that means allowing some fairly serious evil to happen in this world.

But that isn't the end of the story.

Paul tells us in Romans 2:5 that God is keeping track of what is happening:
"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteousness will be revealed."
There is coming a day when all those evil acts will have to be accounted for. There is coming a day when all those that thought they were getting away with doing these things are going to find out that they didn't really get away with it.
This means that none of us are getting away with anything.
The only thing we can do is understand that God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. We have to honestly admit to God that we have all done things that we know are wrong and that we understand that we deserve to be punished for those things. And this is where Christ comes in. He took on that punishment for us and all we have to do accept his offer of forgiveness. I explain this in more detail here.

So in Romans 2:4 Paul is offering us a glimpse at the answer of the question of why God allows evil to persist. He does so in order to offer us a chance at repentance and forgiveness.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Dealing with Unemployment: Feeling Worthless

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R79053 / CC-BY-SA
"Industrious Young Man Looking For Work"
One of the most insidious aspects of prolonged unemployment, in my experience, is not the anxiety and stress that come with experiencing a lot of rejection or having a lack of patience. The hardest and most dangerous thing to deal with is the feeling of being worthless.

I want to be clear right up front. I am not saying that those who are unemployed are worthless but that we (I am one of those unemployed right now) can very easily struggle with an overwhelming and invasive sense of worthlessness. This feeling of worthlessness can very easily lead down the dangerous path depression.

In preparation for writing this post I came across an article written by Ed Welch called Being a Burden that dealt with this same topic. He starts off his article by saying:

"If you hear yourself say, "I am such a burden to _________ [my family, friends, loved ones, the world]," you are in danger. Your mind will go to very dark places, and you are developing immunity to the encouragement of both other people and Scripture. For example, you will hear others say that they are happy to serve you, yet you do not believe it. Instead, you believe their lives would be much easier and, therefore, better if you were gone."
If you ever start thinking about hurting yourself or others please seek immediate professional help. Depression is a very serious thing and can lead to other serious complications. The only help that I can offer to those already suffering depression is to encourage you to not go it alone. Please seek help.

Even without suffering from depression it is very easy to start thinking of yourself as worthless or as a burden. I have struggled with this as my wife has been the main source of financial support for us during this time. It hits me hard whenever her job is particularly stressful. I have a tendency to start thinking that if I had a job then it would help mitigate some of the stress of her job. Which is partly true. If she was not the sole source of income then her job would not be nearly as important to us in terms of our income and it would relieve some stress from that standpoint. But at the same time if I was working it wouldn't do anything to change the actual stresses of her job. What ever project she is working on would still have the same deadlines and problems. It is important for me to remember that having a job would not be the magical cure that I want to think it is.

But short of getting a job what have I done to combat this worthless feeling? What have I done to help out and not be a burden?

As funny as it might sound I have become a "house husband."

I aware of situations where the husband has been unemployed and did almost nothing around the house. The wife had to come home from work and do all of the cooking, cleaning and house work. How those men are still married baffles me.

I have undertaken most of the household chores. I cook dinners, I clean and I do the laundry. Let me go on record and say that any guy that claims to not be able to do laundry is simply lying. Most guys can do far more complex things than laundry and are being lazy when they claim that they cannot keep things straight. Men get this straight. Helping your wife around the house is not beneath you. I have a new found respect for house wives. It isn't an easy task and is a lot of work; especially if there are kids involved.

So while trying to do as much as I can around the house might not be the best long term solution for either myself or my wife, it can go a long way to helping you to see the value that you do have. My wife is very grateful for not having to do all of these things on top of working.

One of the other things that has been important for me is to remember that God does not value me for the things that I do. Rather he sees worth in me based upon who I am as an individual. Matthew 6:25-33 says:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
I know that it can be easy to read this passage when it doesn't seem that God is providing everything that you need...or want. But the point of this passage is to speak of the immeasurable worth that we have in God's eyes. God is far more concerned with our eternal well being. It can be really hard for me to understand why God doesn't give everyone a good and comfortable life. Sometimes it just doesn't make any sense. What cannot be lost here is that our worth to God isn't based on what we can do or provide.

As one dealing with long term unemployment it is important for me to not look at myself as a burden but to try and find ways to be a blessing to others. It is very necessary for those of us going through this to not allow ourselves to go to the dark place that Ed Welch wrote about in the article that I mentioned above. I highly recommend reading it. For the spouses, family members and friends of someone dealing with a long term unemployment, I would highlight the importance of continual encouragement and affirmation for the unemployed. It has been very helpful for me when my wife has taken the time to recognize all that I am doing to try and help out. She has been very important in keeping me from heading to that dark place.

It is very important to recognize this potential issue and to work proactively at preventing any deep and long term problems from fully developing.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Have you ever noticed: Men and Women

I'm just sayin...

A Bad Way To Argue

One of the things that I find particularly annoying is when people approach a debate in a poor way. One of the worst things you can do, at least from my perspective, is to misrepresent the opposing view point. Just as a matter of being transparent I have to admit that I have not and sometimes still not always careful in how I represent an opposing view point. It isn't just dishonest to do so but it actually undermines your argument. Let me explain:

There is snow falling in Chicago

Just wanted to let you know. Here is something else that I wanted to let you know as well:

As I mentioned in the video I do have a couple of more videos to post today. Each one is going to be a separate blog entry and will come out one at a time.

Here is a link to the next post: A Bad Way To Argue (Will be live after 11:00 a.m. Central Time)

And finally: Have you ever noticed: Men and Women (Will be live after 12:00 p.m. Central Time)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dealing with Unemployment: A Lack of Patience

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R79053 / CC-BY-SA
"Industrious Young Man Looking For Work"
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
-Galatians 5:16-24

Last week I dove into the topic of how to deal with an abundance of rejection while going through an extended time of unemployment. If you are sending out resumes and applying for jobs you are going to end up dealing with some level of rejection. In my experience most people don't like to be rejected. Dealing with rejection is a part of life but that doesn't mean that it is fun. And repeatedly getting rejected over a long period of time will start to wear down even the strongest and most resolute person.

It was easier to deal with the rejection early on but after a while I started to become less and less patient. As we can see in the passage that I quoted above, patience is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. But even beyond this and other Scripture passages we can see the virtue of patience. So for me to say that going through an extended period of unemployment is going to test your patience should be fairly obvious. I also don't want to spend a lot of time going over how to be patient. A quick Google search will give you more resources than you can shake a stick at. (What an odd saying.)

What I would like to cover is that a lack of patience can be a pretty good indicator of being under chronic stress. Consider some of the symptoms of chronic stress that are also manifestations of impatience:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability or anger
  • Angry outbursts
  • Muscle Tension

And while we should be patient being under the chronic stress of unemployment is going to affect even the most patient person. Chronic stress is a very serious problem and can lead to a number of very serious health problems. The Mayo Clinic has great resources for identifying stress sources and how to deal with chronic stress. I highly recommend that if you are dealing with unemployment that you look over their resources in order to become aware of the potential problems and possible solutions.

From a theological stand point, my lack of patience is often due to a lack of trust in God. I start to get anxious and lose patience during this time because I start to doubt that God is in control of the situation. My guess is that anyone going through a prolonged difficult situation has those same doubts. Just look at what happened to Peter when he got out of the boat to walk on water in Matthew 14:22-32. He started to focus on the waves and wind and started to doubt that Jesus would keep him safe. The same is true for those of us facing the waves and wind of life can very easily start to doubt that God will keep us safe.

Don't hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that trusting in God means that everything in life will be roses and puppy dogs. There are those who have immense faith and end up losing their homes, going hungry, face persecution or are even killed for their faith. But if we have faith that God will be faithful to us in an eternal sense then it becomes easier to patiently endure the hardships of this life.

Of course it is very easy to say, “Have more faith.”

Sometimes it isn't so easy to do.

One of the things that I shared in my last post is that it is essential that I continually remind myself that I have a wife that loves me and that I have a Savior in Jesus Christ that loves me. I have found that the more that I remind myself of God's eternal love and care for me the easier it is for me to be patient. I have also found it equally important to remain in God's Word. In my life there is a direct correlation between my reading the Bible and my ability to trust in God. So my encouragement for those that are going through a prolonged and chronically stressful situation is to read God's word and to dwell on God's love. You may not be able to remove yourself from the stressful situation or to shorten the time frame. The solution to a lack of patience isn't a shortened wait. Rather what we can do is change how we react in the situation and to keep our eyes on the eternal promises of God. When we do that we help improve our patience and our ability to endure what ever hardships that we may face in this world.