Suffering, Love and Children

This sermon by Randy Harris has been making the rounds. I loved it when I first heard it last month, and when Mike Cope reposted it, I was reminded of what struck me the most about Randy’s message.

Harris tackles the age-old question of why we suffer, and he tells the story of being asked by somebody that if God truly loves us and is all-knowing, why didn’t he simply create us in heaven? We’ve all heard – and asked – similar questions before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an answer like the one Harris gives:

I would ask the question, and this is the kind of question you’d expect a single guy to ask: Why do people keep having children? Because let me give you my informal observation: Children create more anxiety and pain and suffering in your life than anything you can imagine! …

The reason people keep having children, though they often disappoint them – the reason that people keep having children, though they know that the possibilities are they can get sick and die – the reason people keep having children is because they believe love is worth the risk.

And I really believe that when God in heaven – who in his very nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is love – looked down and decided to create, he knew, as every parent does, that this could go badly wrong. But he believed that love was such a wonderful, deep, marvelous thing it was worth the risk. That he would risk anything for the sake of love.

And then he created a world where we could learn to do it. He didn’t just drop us in heaven because we don’t know how to do this yet. He created a world where we can learn to love, and all of us know that the deepest, most profound experiences of love that we have are not just when things are going well. It’s in moments of pain and tragedy.

I have no doubt that at the end, when we reach that heavenly point, God will say, “OK. Now you get it. This is what it means to love.”

As a parent, this really spoke to me. Not a day goes by when I don’t worry in some way about my children – either about something happening to them or something happening to me or my wife. I know at least two sets of parents with young children battling cancer, and a friend whose sister-in-law just died in a car wreck, leaving behind a young boy. Often, thinking about them or my own family leads to unsettling questions about the nature, sovereignty and goodness of God.

I’m not sure we will ever have a good answer to the question of suffering. Its existence is the single most troubling part of believing in a loving, omnipotent God. But Randy’s answer is the closest I’ve seen anyone get to achieving a satisfactory response.


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