“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
In the abstract, trusting God is an easy thing to do. In real life sometimes it can be tough. Life is a struggle; it has lots of good times and some bad times. How do we remind ourselves in the swirling dizziness of life, as we are buffeted and beaten about the face, that everything will be okay, and that God really does love us and know what he’s doing?
God never tries to justify himself to us. Why should he? He’s right to think that if we love him, we will trust him.
Consider: if I go out late at night, my wife trusts me because she knows me and loves me. I do not have to justify myself, give answers for every action I take, every place I go, every word that I say. If I step on my wife’s foot, she does not assume I purposely stomped on it because I wanted to cause her pain. If she finds me snoring some afternoon in my office, she does not conclude that I’m a lazy goof-off.
Likewise, as we think about God and the bad things that happen to us, trusting him is something that should come just as naturally. But all too often the storms of life lead us to start doubting that God really knows what he’s doing, or really cares about what happens to us. A fable may help us think about the issue more clearly.
The Story of the Dogs
“It is quite clear that there can be no such thing as the Owner,” said the old dog. He had perched himself on the edge of the chair and surveyed the pups below them. “Consider the obvious fact of the existence of the Veterinarian.”
The little pups shivered in fear.
“Is there anything positive that might be said about the Veterinarian?” asked the old dog.
“Perhaps it is to teach us something?” squeaked one little pup.
The old dog laughed. “What possible thing can you learn from being jabbed and prodded and tormented in that little cage? That you don’t like being poked? I could have told you that without the experience.”
“Perhaps free-will has something to do with it?” suggested another little pup.
Again, the old dog laughed. “We assume that the Owner is all-knowing and all-powerful and that on top of that he loves us and cares for us.”
“We do receive food every day,” pointed out another small pup.
“Then why is there the suffering of the Veterinarian?” demanded the old dog. “If the Owner was all-knowing and all-powerful, couldn’t he keep us from having to endure such suffering?”
“Well certainly,” agreed the pups.
“Then why doesn’t he? If he loved us, wouldn’t he keep the Veterinarian away? In fact, why is there even a Veterinarian at all? It is obvious that the existence of the Veterinarian is incompatible with the existence of the Owner. Either that, or the Owner is not powerful, or else the Owner is not good. There is no way of reconciling the existence of the Owner in the traditional sense with the obvious reality of the Veterinarian.”
It is absolutely impossible for the dogs to ever understand why the Veterinarian is necessary, or that the Veterinarian is actually an element in the Owner’s love for them. Certainly this is not a perfect analogy, but just as the Veterinarian is nothing but horrible for a dog, perhaps the why of evil, the reality of suffering, and all that entails is simply beyond our comprehension. That it seems so “obviously” incompatible with the nature of God or even the existence of God does not mean that it necessarily is. Love means that we assume the best about those that are around us, rather than assuming malevolence. So let’s just love God and believe that he loves us back. After all, he’s told us he does. Why not just accept it, despite the circumstances we may face at the moment?