Does God see all the craziness and pain in the world?
Does God really care about me, or about anyone?
Does Christianity actually believe people are accountable for their actions?
The result of recriminations has not been positive. There has been an undeniable decrease in the number of people who identify themselves as Christian. Over the past decades, the total number of people attending church in the US has declined. Carey Nieuwhof recently wrote about the growing wave of deconversions from Christianity, noting that atheism has doubled among Generation Z compared to other generations.
Everyone has questions, even moments of doubt. Nieuwhof noted those moments of doubt and fear helped form his life and deepened his faith. “My questioning of Christian assumptions over the years has deepened my faith not eroded it.”
We share Nieuwhof’s response. We encourage everyone to bring each question, doubt, and fear to God. Questions are fertilizer for the ground in which faith grows. God acknowledges the disturbing situations of life from which doubts arise. Scripture addresses our questions head-on, enabling us to learn the trustworthiness of God’s promises.
Look at the life of Hagar in Genesis 16. Sarai owned Hagar as a young maidservant to do her bidding. Abraham and Sarai had been unable to conceive a child, so Sarai thought it a good idea for Abraham to have sex with the young slave girl and take the child as her own. As one might expect, things did not work as smoothly as Sarai first planned. A powerless young girl, with an unwanted child, had to run for her life.
Consider the story of Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11-12. The wife of a faithful soldier in the army of Israel was bathing, as normal, in the evening on the roof of their home. The King of Israel saw her from his rooftop and sent messengers to fetch her. From this point, the story takes predictable turns. A girl with no capacity to resist the King was pregnant with his child. The King devised a plan to conceal his actions, and eventually the woman’s husband is killed in battle.
Check out the story of the unnamed woman in Mark 12:41-44. A poor widow entered the bustling Court of the Women where Passover pilgrims would place their offerings. No one even noticed her. Her meager offering of two small coins could not compare with their large ones. Why was this woman so poor that she only had two small coins to her name? Had her children ignored her, declaring any help they may have given her “Corban”? (Mark 7:9-12) Did her husband die without her bearing children? Where was her deceased husband’s family, since they had a duty to care for her?
Each of these women had ample reason to be disappointed with life events. With no power of their own, others had dominated or ignored them. Hagar had to run into the desert near a spring beside the road to Shur to escape mistreatment. Bathsheba had not sought the attention of the King, but she was now bearing his child and her husband lay dead in battle. The unnamed woman surely felt the scorn of others viewing her as an obstacle in the way to pouring their coins into the Temple Treasury.
The Scripture meets the questions with which we began this post.
Does God really see the pain and suffering of the world? Yes! God’s messenger told Hagar that her descendants would be too many to count! Bathsheba was brought into David’s home and he made her his wife. None other than Jesus saw the unnamed woman and called his disciples to see her devotion to God that exceeded so many in the crowd! God saw each of these powerless women, and their stories tell us that God sees the state of the powerful and the powerless. God’s kindness and touch were on each of these women. Their legends live on, telling us we can rely upon God’s promise to meet us in times of need. God’s promise is no magic incantation removing obstacles and difficulties from life. Scripture provides us repeated examples of God being present in the realities, difficulties, and pain of life. God moves with us through pain into promise.
Does God call people into account for their actions? Absolutely! God sent Hagar back to Abraham and Sarai. They could not simply mistreat this girl and be done with things. They had to live with the consequences of their actions! God sent a prophet to David (2 Sam 12) to tell the story of a rich man stealing the prize lamb from a poor man. David did not escape the consequences of his action! In these stories, and more, God forces us look at ourselves and see how easily we use others for our own benefit. God repeatedly calls us to repent and change our behavior.
These are but three stories and a handful of questions, but the pattern is before us. Life will have times of difficulty. Sometimes life can be cruelly unjust. We will have questions about others, ourselves, life, and God in those times. We can bring our questions to God. We can be honest about our anger with God. God will not leave us in our anger. He will use the difficulties and the doubts that enter our mind to build faith and trust his promises. Hagar learned that God did see her in her trouble. Bathsheba learned that God did not leave her pregnant and alone. An unnamed woman learned. We will as well.