A parent, watching their child take its first steps, knows it may fall. As a result, we stand ready to catch them when they do.
But the fact remains that the child does, indeed, stumble and fall. The parent limits the hurt, yes, but for the child to walk, they must learn that if done improperly, they will fall.
I believe that God does the same thing. He allows us to fall, limits the pain, but nonetheless allows us to experience some pain and some sense of failure but with the possibility of success still evident.
Imagine yourself a parent again — or imagine yourself in your parent’s shoes — and think of when the child is given the keys to the family car for the first “all by yourself” errand. Certainly the risk is much greater, and as parents we have done what we hope is a reasonable job of preparing the child for this situation, but nonetheless we hand them the keys and say, “Be careful.”
God also hands us a set of keys. They are the keys of questioning, of doubting, of testing.
Herein, I think you’ll agree I’m using those keys to drive pretty fast and maybe even cutting a corner or two dangerously close. No doubt some will even say I’ve crossed the center line and am driving head-on into oncoming traffic.
“You’re gonna burn in Hell, boy!”
Maybe. Maybe not.
Maybe I’m learning to walk, figuratively speaking, by thinking in this way, by coming to this conclusion at this time.
Life, as I’m sure you know, is a process. We grow, we change, we believe things in our youth that we later replace with more mature beliefs.
And as we continue to age, those beliefs change yet again.
If you die at the wrong time, do you go to Hell because your beliefs at that time were wrong but if you’d lived another year, another week, another minute, you might’ve changed your mind and then gone to Heaven instead?
I believe God gave us minds so that we could explore ideas.
He knows it’s a process.
He knows we change.
And He lets us stumble as we learn to walk.
I don’t pretend to have “the” answer. All I can tell you is what works or doesn’t work for me. And the idea that God created the universe and set things in motion with creatures like us, and that we would have Free Will to think and do and decide, is all a part of that plan.
And I am convinced that evil and suffering are what God put in place so we could tell when we’re doing something wrong just as good, comfort and pleasure exist so we can tell when we’re going in the right direction.
Although I am averse to wholesale, literal acceptance of the Bible, nonetheless it has great wisdom:
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline —then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.