Faith in Clutch Moments

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it…But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods.”

A few months into my work at a fast food restaurant, I sauntered in for my evening shift. The place was quiet and the manager stood at the register and greeted me as I entered the service area.

“Mike, you missed all the fun last night.”

“Oh, really,” I replied.

“We got robbed last night,” he said.

“Yeah, right.” I passed it off as a joke, but he was serious.

This store was two years old and sat on a state highway in a suburban area. Still, that meant little in the scenario he proceeded to explain. My co-worker Richard who first encountered the robber relayed the following account.

Beginning his nightly breakdown and cleaning routine at 9 p.m., an hour before closing, with no customers in the store, a man entered, drew a gun three inches to his face, and ordered him and all other staff to the back. There he made them lie in the floor on their stomachs in an enclosed area while he and the shift manager went to the safe. He left with $1,500 without harming anyone.

Alarmed by the details, I felt sorry for the people who had experienced the ordeal, some of whom were traumatized. It scared me to think of the outcome being any different. The robber was never caught.

Just, Why?

Obviously, I’m grateful I hadn’t been working. Would the situation have been worse if another set of people were present?

Why does God allow such things? Why doesn’t he clearly intervene in crisis…manifest in some way? It’s his world, after all. I think of super-scale natural disasters and heinous moral evils—where is God? These are tough questions to which there are no answers and the Bible offers none.

One of my favorite pastors whimsically asks, “If God is so powerful and good, why doesn’t he just erase the Devil?” I think we all can agree.

Playing with Fire

The topic makes me consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who boldly confronted evil in their uniquely dicey situation. For it’s one thing for misfortune and tragedy to strike and overcome you; it’s another thing to have a choice in your fate, which can be much more difficult. “God, I’ll trust you”—because I have no other choice is easier than “God, I’ll trust you”—when I do.

Yet the ‘Hebrew Boys’’ resolve convinces me that questioning, the struggle to understand why, is limited to its ability to make us feel our experience and to induce personal growth and, hopefully, deep faith in God. And that role should not be underestimated. Deep inquiry can even provoke change; however, it just won’t ever halt wickedness. Nebuchadnezzar will have his way.

So evil in the world will continue, yet God remains sovereign and providentially good to humankind. On that basis alone he is to be trusted. God rescues all, the believer and non-believer. I’m so thankful he protected my co-workers. And although only he can fully explain why, I doubt those answers outweigh our rest in his abiding care for us. We wouldn’t understand if he did explain.

In the end, why questions must give way to how questions that confront us about our response. Otherwise, we won’t emerge from fear or pain to wholesome life. Circumstances often don’t change but we must.

{Too, let us praise God for all the ways he does deliver that we never see! There could be far more hardship in the world.}

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4 thoughts on “Faith in Clutch Moments

  1. Love offers free will and doesn’t control us even when there’s a chance we might choose really poorly. That’s beautiful if your heart is turned towards good. But when folks are up to no good, we can get really frustrated that Love doesn’t control them so they don’t hurt us. We want Love to protect us by controlling others. Which, of course, doesn’t work, because Love is always true to Himself. He’s not interested in robots who Love because He forces them to do so, and so He accepts risk that freedom to choose might mean that He doesn’t get chosen, that Love isn’t chosen, that good isn’t chosen. It’s hard stuff, and another reason I’m glad I’m not God.

    • (C.S. Lewis): “God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata–of creatures that worked like machines–would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk…If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will–that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings–then we may take it it is worth paying.”

        • No, I’m in good company! Loved your vantage and then thought, “Isn’t this that Lewis quote I loved in college?” It’s really food for thought, so thanks!

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