13. The Tolerance of God

Essay #13 from the book, "Reflections on Providence" by the Rev. Frank S. Rose, Tucson, AZ

“The laws of permission are also laws of the divine providence.” Divine Providence #234

Two people were talking about life. One was having considerable difficulty reconciling a belief in God with human experience.

“If there is a God, why is there so much suffering in the world? How can you believe in God when you read about little babies dying of aids?” The questions went on and on.

The friend said: “Think of your own life. There are things that you are responsible for as a teacher. Why is it that you let some of the students cheat?”

“I don’t let them cheat.”

“Well, you don’t exactly let them, but you know it happens. Why don’t you create a situation in which cheating is totally impossible?”

“Look, this is a school, not a jail, in spite of what the students say. I am not willing to teach in a system that is so rigid that the students can’t make mistakes.”

“So you see, what you want to provide for the students is a good learning experience. And you tolerate some of the abuses. There is a big difference between what you want, and what you tolerate. Why can’t it be the same with God?”

“Talk about a big difference there is an enormous difference between having children that goof off from time to time, and the terrible wars, famines, diseases and evils that affect the human race.”

“Admittedly the scale is very different, but the principle is the same. God values human freedom so much that He tolerates the abuse of that freedom. God does not love evil, but is willing to allow people to do harmful things rather than make their life so controlled that they can only do good.”

“You make it sound as if God is so determined to allow people to be free, that He allows a situation where people hurt each other. What about the victims of crime, doesn’t God care for them?”

“God cares for the victim and the criminal, and is able to turn any situation to some good end. Suffering has a part to play in our spiritual growth.”

“Well, I still wish that I lived in a world without so much evil in it.”

“Suppose you found a perfect world. Wouldn’t you be afraid to be part of that world?”

“Why would I be afraid of that?”

“Do you consider yourself to be without any faults? Since you are imperfect, you would spoil a perfect world if you entered it. Maybe the deeper question is ‘Why does God permit evil to exist in your own heart – you who are so concerned about evil in the world?’”

“Now wait a minute, I am not that bad.”

“I didn’t say that you were bad, just that you were imperfect. Why do you think that God allows you to make mistakes?”

“I would hate to live in a world where I was so controlled that I couldn’t make mistakes.”

“Then you see – God permits your mistakes, and provides for your spiritual growth. These are the two sides of the divine providence. And the laws that govern what the Lord provides are the same laws as the ones that deal with what the Lord permits. This is the beautiful consistency of the way God operates.”

—Rev. Frank Rose, Former Pastor of Sunrise Chapel, Tucson, AZ