A saying perhaps we have heard is “There are no atheists in foxholes”. It basically means that under extreme duress or when facing an extreme threat the human tendency is to look to a higher power, to look beyond ourselves. When faced with situations that are more than we can handle oftentimes we are changed in subtle ways. When we lose a wife or child or face an immense and crushing burden often we emerge a changed man.
For instance, many of us suffered tremendous shock, pain, and sorrow when we realized that quite a bit of what we were taught as JWs was not based on truth. This suffering has changed us forever. Never again will we put full trust and confidence in men. Many of us have learned to be more open-minded and less dogmatic. The suffering and pain that we experienced served to shape and mold us. Do you believe that you are now a better person than before your suffering?
Others perhaps learned the lesson not to trust in men, but also abandoned all spirituality and hope. Although they may claim to accept only what can be proved, to be completely rational, and non-spiritual, now their only hope is the grave. When a loved one dies, there is no belief of seeing that one in the future. He is gone forever. As the atheist becomes older it dawns on them that the best part of the only existence they will ever have is over and only eternal non-existence awaits them. What a morbid thought! Personally if I had that outlook I’m not sure I could continue living.
We, as Christians, realize we don’t have all the answers. At one time, as JWs, we may have thought we had all the answers but we didn’t and we still do not. The very fact that humans seem to have been made with a spiritual side hints at the invisible, the spiritual.
The fact that we would never believe that a complex machine such as a watch came from nothing should suggest that we also did not come from nothing. A watch pales in comparison to the complexity of life.
Some will claim God doesn’t exist because a loving God could not look upon suffering children and other innocents and turn His back on them. I do feel for those that because of personal suffering or empathy for those that are suffering have rejected God’s existence.
I certainly do not claim to fully understand why God permits suffering. However I do know that pain and suffering does mold our personality and teaches us invaluable lessons that will stay with us for all eternity. Jesus who was God’s son and was perfect even learned from his suffering. Hebrews 5:8 (HCSB) “Though a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.”
Yes, even Jesus was shaped and molded by his experiences. Would we be so bold and arrogant as to say that suffering serves absolutely no purpose for us?
The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is a true masterpiece. Only when the prodigal son reached a certain point of despair and sorrow did he recover his senses. His pain and suffering molded his personality and taught him a lesson he would never forget.
When we experience overwhelming pain, guilt, or sense of loss, and when we reach the bottom of a pit of despair we recognize our own helplessness. We realize the foolishness of our vanity, pride, and arrogance. We may recognize how selfish we have been and how lost we are. We now know how insignificant our power truly is. If we reach this point we are ready to be molded. In fact we are already being molded. Only when metal is thrust into a hot fire and reaches a high temperature can the blacksmith mold it.
God does not cause us suffering nor pain, but he does allow us to use our free will to hurt ourselves and others. This eventually allows us to mature and be shaped for our own good, in order to take away our rebellious, know-it-all attitude. It disabuses of the notion that we don’t have need of a higher power.
A small child does not understand why his parents at times seem to be unloving or act in an arbitrary way and are only interested in taking away the fun things in life. He doesn’t understand why he can’t eat ice cream for every meal, why he must take naps when it is more fun to play outside, or why if he doesn’t listen and obey he gets punished.
In understanding, all of us from the most intelligent human to the least are all babes. All children must receive discipline and there has never been a child that hasn’t received his fair share of bumps and bruises. These experiences taught the child valuable lessons that were not forgotten in adulthood.
The pain and suffering we have experienced has begun to mold us. Perhaps it has changed us for the better or perhaps it has revealed serious personality defects that were hidden before. James 1:2-4 – (NWT)”Consider it all joy, my brothers, when YOU meet with various trials, 3 knowing as YOU do that this tested quality of YOUR faith works out endurance. 4 But let endurance have its work complete, that YOU may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.”
A former alcoholic can truly understand the danger of alcohol misuse. A person who has allowed his marriage to crumble often has insights on how others can avoid the same thing. The workaholic who at the end of his life has sacrificed his family, his happiness, and his health for his job is filled with regrets, but he has learned the lesson on what is truly important.
After the human race is done with pain and suffering we will have learned lessons that will never leave us. When we have been shaped and molded by our suffering, when the dross has been burnt away, we will have reached “adulthood”. The bible hints that God will have wonderful privileges waiting for us.
A few weeks ago Greybeard sent me a link to a book entitled “Hope Beyond Hell”. This is the link to it:
It is a free downloadable book and I would encourage you to take the time to read it. The author cites numerous bible texts and makes the case that God’s plan is to reach all humans with the good news of Jesus and bring them to him. He believes those who have acted wickedly will receive their just discipline but that discipline will end and they will eventually be won over by God’s love and brought to Christ. The book also goes into depth on what the original bible languages meant with the term “everlasting destruction”.
The book makes a strong scriptural case. It is to be admitted, however, that one can also make a scriptural case against it. However in my heart I feel the teaching of the eventual salvation of all mankind is compatible with God’s personality. I have not made up my mind on the issue but encourage others to look into it.
I have considered that often even the worst criminals have a reason they are the way that they are. What kind of person would we be today if we grew up without love even from our parents and were subjected to abuse or exposed to horrible acts as a young child? Can we not admit the possibility that we would be vastly different? Perhaps not so different than the drug abuser, gang-banger, armed robber or murderer? I certainly do not condone these terrible things, but many because of being victimized at a young age have fallen into these things and now are trapped in a vicious cycle. For many breaking the cycle is beyond their power.
After reading more on this subject and meditating on the scriptures contained in the book I would like you to give me your feedback on this issue. If God’s plan is to eventually bring to Christ every human being, the “good news” is most definitely good news for every person ever born on this planet.