My last few columns have attempted to deal with the age-old problem of suffering, pain and evil in this world.
There is an interesting verse in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel where we read, "You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone -- red carnelian, pale-green peridot, white moonstone, blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper, blue lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald -- all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold.
They were given to you on the day you were created. I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian. You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in all you did from the day you were created until the day evil was found in you" (Ezekiel 28:12-15 NLT).
Please note that the evil we experience in this world did not originate with God but from within His own perfect creation. In the first column, then, we discovered that much of the pain and suffering in this world -- perhaps the majority of it -- comes from our own evil actions.
We, of course, don't recognize certain things as inherently evil and therefore become angry with God when we experience the natural consequences of those wrong choices. We'll look more at this in a moment.
In the second column of this series, we addressed the issue of natural disasters and discussed the possibility that perhaps these events are actually God's megaphone to grab our attention. That thought is not an easy thought, but it is a very real possibility.
Think of it as a parent trying to stop a child from playing on a busy street. The child may not perceive the possible danger, and reason or the promise of reward may not dissuade them.
At that point, a loving parent may resort to pain or the promise of pain if little Billy or Sally does not comply to the house rules. Little Billy or Sally may see that as unreasonable, unfair, an encroachment upon their personal freedom, but they comply because like most, they too are allergic to pain.
The third reason some reject the notion of God, because of this reality of pain in our world we touched upon in point one above, is they simply recognize that if there is a God, a Creator, he retains the rights over his creation and can set the rules regarding right and wrong.
Many reject the idea of God for this reason but then use the argument of pain and suffering as their justification for their rejection. It is like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum when they are denied something they want.
Back in the early '70s, I was dealing with a young woman who had professed her love for God, had been very active in her church, and at that time would have been considered a "good girl" by all who knew her.
Then Bob (not his real name) entered her life. Bob was not a good boy by any stretch of the imagination, and, no, that is not a judgment call on my part, it was the reality of the situation. Bob was a rebel to the core; society itself, not the church alone, recognized that this young man was trouble.
Linda (not her real name), came to me in a meeting seeking advice about what to do about Bob and a certain situation he had gotten into. At that time, I advised her that her best course of action at that present time was to distance herself from Bob -- for her good and for his.
Her response was, "Are you telling me that I have to choose between God and Bob?" When I said "Yes, that is exactly what I am telling you," she exploded with anger, "Then I choose Bob! Don't you ever speak to me again!"
We'll look at the rest of this story next week.
John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.