The Question That Devours

24 06 2011

Nearly 5 months later and there are times that I am still bitter.

I was taking Systematic Theology in the fall semester of 2010. Part of the coursework included a research paper on a specified theological matter. From the provided list, I chose “God and the Problem of Evil.” (Seminarians refer to this as theodicy – not to be confused with a work by Homer.) I don’t claim to be an expert on this issue, but I certainly have gained more knowledge on the subject. To begin with, I read through scripture about people like Paul and John the Baptist, who were the victims of evils and pains of this world. I searched the Old and New Testaments. I read C.S. Lewis, Frederick Buechner, and Brennan Manning. I read articles from many other scholars and theologians. I put together a suitable paper on the subject. My professor gave me 100%, so I’m not really sure if he read it. At any rate, I still feel pretty good about the content therein.

But God was showing me something on a much deeper level. You see, all the knowledge in the world does little to help with a fundamentally emotional or spiritual problem. In Spanish, there are two words that can be translated as “to know”: saber and conocer. The first means to know a fact. We would use it as in “Do you know when The Declaration of Independence was signed?” But conocer means to know something by way of experience. “Do you know your neighbor?” Another way to phrase this is to consider the difference in comprehension and apprehension. I can comprehend how to throw a curve ball that will strike out a Major League batter, but I have yet to apprehend it. (Yes, I said, “yet.” It could happen.)

God was leading me on a path in which I would be able to exercise my newfound knowledge on the subject. He was leading me to apprehend what I had recently attempted to comprehend. While I am grateful for the deeper understanding, I absolutely despise, abhor the journey. It’s not really over, because I still don’t feel like I’ve arrived anywhere yet and I don’t see an end in the near future. It is a painful journey in which I have one burning question. The question eats at me because I can’t see God’s plan. I am an optimist. I always try to look at the “bright side.” It helps me and, for me, beats the alternative. (Pet peeve alert: I don’t like pessimists. I just want to say, “Chill out!”) But, if I’m honest, I don’t see the bright side is this situation. I don’t even see a shimmer of light.

I have gained a better understanding of Robert Robinson’s Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, particularly the following verse:

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love.

I’ve been prone to wander. I’ve even felt prone to leave the very God that I love. How could God allow this to happen? I don’t understand. He was a good man. He was my best friend. I miss him and all the theodicy studying in the world doesn’t make this any better. Yeah, I know God is soveriegn. I know that what I want isn’t always what I get. But I have a really hard time thinking, much less actually believing, that this is what God wanted. So, why didn’t He do anything about it?

And I guess that is the question that eats me.

My God, why didn’t You do something? We prayed. Thousands prayed. We believed. There was more than mustard seed faith. There was an entire mountain of faith in Marshall alone…

And He replies, “Do you trust Me?” I swallow hard, take a deep breath. “I’m not sure, Lord…Yes. Yes, of course I trust You, but help my distrust.”

Take my heart, Lord. Take and seal it.
Seal it for thy courts above.

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