In home group tonight we had a discussion about God testing us vs. us living in a fallen world, etc. and it reminded me of something James wrote to Rob...So I thought I would post it. It's long, but well worth the read.
I never really know how to consider things when it looks like nothing is going my way. Some people decide to say that this is nevertheless God's will and we just have to trust in him. This means that it only seems that thing's aren't working out, but they're actually going quite smoothly according to the master plan which we just don't understand. But I really don't think this view fully accounts for evil. I would like to define evil as the messing up of God's plan. I would like to believe that God regrets evil as much as we do. Not that evil is something that we just misunderstand, but that it is something that God hates as much as us (even more than us) and is actively working against. I think this is the message of the cross: God doing everything necessary to work against evil, even becoming the only person who submits to evil--but is not a victim of it--because he is the only person who suffered evil willingly. It's an amazing thing to think about. But if God's plan is constantly being messed up, how are we to have any faith in him? How am I to know whether a hardship is sent to me from the Lord for some greater good, or is just something that Satan was able to "slip past the goalie"? But I think that whether you're agnostic in this respect (like I am) or if you have full confidence in divine providence, the end result may be the same: it produces longsuffering and patience. I guess the difference is that the person with a strong view of providence prays "God, why are you doing this? Please let this end soon, or at least help me to understand", while the person who's more agnostic prays with a fervent desperation (as I often do) "Thy will be done! I don't know what it is, and I don't know how to recognize it, but I pray that your will shall be done and is being done in my life!"
I think that at the end of the day, the lot of the Christian is not to seek an easy life or easy answers, but rather to take up our cross--and many crosses will inevitably come--and carry it. That is, to take up whatever challenge either Satan or God (often I don't know which) has tossed us and carry it in the most Christianly way possible. Isn't that what Jesus did? He begged not to have his cross, but when it came to him, he carried it, and did so with great righteousness. The question is not "why am I suffering?"--I don't think there's any complete answer for that in this life--but rather "Am I responding to suffering in a righteous manner?"
Alright, so you pretty much hit the nail on the head with the problem of evil. James 1 reads "every good and perfect gift comes from [God]". So it's clear that he gets the credit for that. We can blame all the shit that happens on either direct intervention from Satan, or from the original screw up with Adam. With direct intervention, I don't think it's wise to say that Satan "overrode" God. God is absolute sovereign of all creation, including Satan. Whatever authority the latter has has been granted to him. Look at Job. But the real question, which you got to, is "why does this loving God grant Satan such power?" And why doesn't he make special intervention all the time to undo the works of the fall, like just putting a single apple on the road so I don't starve. I don't think we get the answer to that. Philosophically, I don't think the problem of evil can be solved. It's a really good paradox, which we just have to be happy with. But while God does not give us an answer to why there is evil, he does however give us a response. This is found in Jesus. That's why in my previous email I said that I take comfort that even God submits to evil. The rules of the game ("game" does not imply something fun and silly, but merely a closed system with consistent rules), for now, are set up so that God may occasionally interfere with the natural flow of things (this is a miracle) but not always, and not consistently. Another rule is that Satan is granted broad power to do his will. Given these 2 rules, it would be easy to think that maybe whoever created the rules (God) doesn't have our best intentions in mind, especially since we're not given a good reason for why (isn't that our favorite question from the time we're kids?) these are the rules. Maybe he enjoys seeing us confused and suffering. But there is strong evidence that in some way or another, it is in fact necessary that these are the rules. There is a good reason why these are the rules. What is the evidence? That God is not an absent God merely looking down on the game board. He's not having any fun with this, but suffered just as much as we did. So this is God's way of proving that he means business. He's not kidding around when he says "in spite of all you see, I am in control, and I'm a loving God". He's gone to great lengths to prove his point. But it's still possible to be skeptical. Maybe Jesus never was God, or maybe God's just making this a really elaborate hoax in order to trick us. So while these options are logically possible, I do not believe them because of faith. And there's nothing absurd about that. I don't really have any proof that Rob Snider is a fellow human. All my arguments are based on analogy: I am a human, and I laugh, and Rob laughs, so Rob is a human. We both have noses, and eyes, etc. But these are not logical proofs, and it's possible that you're something entirely other than human. And so I need faith to even believe the simplest things.
I guess with a lot of things it's logically possible that it just happened, but if you believe in a God who is good and who loves us, then it becomes more probable that it's a blessing from God. Especially when I think of the sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about the hairs of our heads being numbered (read: there is no detail too small for God) and the sparrows and the lilies of the field. Sometimes I picture myself walking down the road of life which is an empty dirt road going through some fields. Along the way I find an apple tree. I pick the apple and eat it. Did God cause the wind to blow the apple seed to that spot, send rain on the seed and cause a tree to grow just so that James Pyles could eat an apple on that day? Maybe. But if not, I at least know that God created apples in general so that people could enjoy them, and this tree is a part of that blessing. Jesus said "He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous". So it is even God who sends the rain so that trees can grow and people can eat, whether they recognize the hand of God in this or not. I don't think I've ever had a problem believing that blessings are from God. It's evil that I'm never too sure of. Now this broken world is also a Christian world, so there is a chance of redemption, but will you know how to seize it? Will you know that you need to seize it, that redemption does need to take place, and this rejection is not just an instance of "shit happens"? This is why along side of "thy will be done" I usually desperately pray every day "give me this day my daily bread", meaning "give me the things I need to get through the day the way you intended. Give me the knowledge I need, but wouldn't ordinarily have, give me the love, patience and compassion that I need to accomplish thy will (a desire to accomplish God's will, as the body of Christ, comes alongside the prayer that it shall be done). Give me the things I need, but don't even know to ask for. And also, give me the food I need."