“Why doesn’t God step in to stop the suffering in this world?”
By Elena Sichrovsky
“If God loves me so much, why would He take Charlie away?” I could understand the pain behind fourteen-year-old Rosanna’s question. When she was a child her older sister was kidnapped and murdered, and now just months ago her older brother had been hit and killed by a train. Emotionally and mentally she broke under the strain of the immense loss and grief. “God can control everything. God can let whatever He wants happen. He can do what He wants since He’s apparently so almighty, He’s God. He didn’t freaking stop it!” she continued.
I explained to her that although God is indeed all-powerful, He cannot stop evil from happening, because in forcing humans to do what’s right, He is taking away their freedom of choice. God is not the author of evil, but in creating us with free will, He gave us the opportunity to choose love or hate, good or evil.
Sometimes, though, weary of a world headlined with murder, starved by famine, and devastated by war, we wonder what it would be like if anger and cruelty never existed, if we could never hurt or mistreat each other. A world of perfection haunts us dreamily in the back of our minds as we fight through the daily tears and struggles.
That spotless world is clearly portrayed in the 2014 movie The Giver, based on the 1993 Lois Lowry novel, where serenity is the most fitting word to describe the order and balance in this colorless world. Yes, even the hues of the rainbow are removed to avoid chaos and conflict in this black-and-white society of carefully calculated family units and stable, unchanging climate.
As the Giver (Jeff Bridges) tells Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), it no longer snows anymore because snow means weather change, weather change brings damage to crops, and lack of crops causes hunger, which precedes famine, a currently unheard-of phenomenon in this new age of utopian peace and equality. Sickness is erased by health and strength; the elderly and weak infants are calmly eliminated by a celebrated release to “Elsewhere,” and the painless injection is carried out so emotionlessly by doctors that you can hardly see death in their faces.
The Giver is the only person who retains memories and information of a bygone time, when splashes of greens, blues, and red wash the earth of rolling hills and violent ocean waves, where people laughed, danced, sang, and also fought, screamed, killed, and hurt each other. Jonas is assigned to be the next memory carrier and have all this data passed on to him by the Giver, to keep the memories for generations to come in case of advice or emergency.
The Giver begins to transmit memories of a past world—vibrant colors, pulsating rhythms, pounding waves, rolling hills, tinkling notes, and swirling emotions—things completely foreign and unknown to Jonas. Slowly Jonas begins to experience the taste of something totally new: emotions deeper than feelings. “What you feel for someone else, the mind can’t explain it, and you can’t make it go away. Love. It’s called love,” the Giver explains.
Realizing what they’ve been deprived of, Jonas questions the established rules, exclaiming, “If you can’t feel, what’s the point?” The Giver explains, “They created sameness. If we were different, we could be envious, angry, or consumed with hatred.” Jonas is then introduced to what happens when humans have free rein: war, murder, death, and pain. Horrified and stunned, he struggles to understand that, as the Giver says, “Everything is connected. Everything is balance. Where there is good, there is bad.”
There is an opportunity for Jonas to cross the boundary of memories and introduce color, emotion, and freedom back into his sterilized community, but along with the beautiful would come the ugly, hurtful, evil side of human nature.
What if you could choose? What voice would speak to you louder—the Chief Elder, who firmly reiterates that “When people have the freedom to choose, they always choose wrong”? Or the Giver, who says, “If you could possibly see with the possibility of love. With love comes hope, with love comes faith”?
What if you could create your own world? What if you were God and could make a better environment? “Try to create utopia,” Peter Kreeft challenges in Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ. “But you have to think of the consequences of everything you try to improve. Every time you use force to prevent evil, you take away freedom. To take away all evil, you must remove all freedom and reduce people to puppets, which means they would then lack the ability to freely choose love.”
If we try to force perfection, I believe it will only end in dehumanization, a mere shadow of the overflowing life God has given us. A life bursting with variety, different shades of personality and style, the full range of emotions, diversity of landscape, and so much more. Yes, that also means there will be the possibility of evil, cruelty, and pain. But you see, God didn’t leave us helpless. He doesn’t just let us suffer the consequences of our or others’ wrong decisions.
In His all-encompassing love, He sent us hope in the form of His Son, Jesus. John 10:10 reveals a crucial statement from Jesus: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Christ’s death crushed the power of sin’s hold on our lives and brought forth the invigorating fresh air of eternal life. If we choose to have Jesus in our lives, we can weather the turbulences in life and emerge stronger, with increased depth of character. We can choose the right path of love and patience even when our human nature is pulling us the other way. We can open our eyes with greater faith to see the beautiful possibilities that this world holds for us if we are willing to share it with others.
And most of all, I told Rosanna, we have a Friend and Savior by our side at every moment. As Peter Kreeft says, “The answer to suffering is not an answer at all. It is the Answerer.” Slowly she began to understand that, as Paul Claudel put it,
“Christ did not come to do away with suffering … He came to fill it with His presence.”
With Jesus walking every step of this exciting but difficult journey with us, we can enjoy the abundant life He promised in Scripture. We have the opportunity to choose it today and to live in true freedom.