A coach of a Christian school team recently led a game with his team playing against a juvenile delinquents team. The Christian school’s team always had lots of support from family, fans and cheerleaders making rallying cries; while the opposing team, these delinquents, never had a supporter in the stands for any game. There’s no protocol to do this, but the coach of the Christian school team asked the supporters in the stands to do something they’d never done before—rally for the opposing team: the delinquents.
The coach explained the delinquents never have support, and Christians should, if anyone, support them. Demonstrate some Christian love. So the fans, families and cheerleaders backed the coach up. They cheered for the delinquent team. They ‘boo’ed their own. Needless to say, it left quite an impression. The usually unfavored team of delinquents were very encouraged.
This happened late last year. It was such a big deal it gained publicity with the local media, and before long the story was on TV, in the newspaper, and on the web. All of this was good news. The coach was made out as a role model. The Christian school team was commended as good sports. This bit of news made it’s way to several people that were so moved by the event they felt led to send thanks and encouragement to the school, the team, and of course, the coach. Fan mail poured in. Among the fan letters, a young women wrote a very heart-felt message.
The message said that she, the writer, had all but given up on Christianity. Becoming somewhat agnostic, she was deeply moved by the Christian character of the coach, and she wished only more Christians were like him. This is basically what the message to the coach said.
The coach was getting lots of mail about the game, but this was a rare instance he was compelled to write a response to a piece of fan mail. So he did write the woman asking her not to give up on God for what men do. “You’ve got to take God for His own words and actions.”
The women was doubly moved that he’d responded. It was like a celebrity had sent her a personal letter of concern for her salvation. What was she to do? It seemed providential. She knew the right thing would be to respond back, but she wanted to be careful in choosing her words. She wanted to tell the coach the unpretentious truth. She told him that in all honesty, her lack of faith was not for what men had done. Her lack of faith went back to a close friend getting cancer and dying a miserable death. The woman said “I just can’t see why God would let her suffer. She was a good person. People loved her. I figure a good God would not let that happen.”
In the midst of this story unfolding, the word had got out to This American Life (sound familiar?) of what was going on between the coach and the lady. They were compelled to report on the story from the woman’s perspective in their latest episode, so they asked her if it was all right with her if they got involved. She said it was okay, and when the coach responded to her latest correspondence that he’d like to talk with her in a phone call, she asked if it’d be okay to record their conversation for the radio show. She really wanted to get words of encouragement and affirmation from the coach, and at the same time the story was interesting enough if the coach could offer special insight into her unbelief they might also be meaningful to other listeners.
The coach agreed to have the conversation recorded. His position was he took every opportunity to be a good Christian witness and he wasn’t afraid of national media. So the call ensued.
First it was cordial and heartfelt. The woman was getting some long-overdue spiritual attention. The coach’s words were uplifting and interesting. Then the conversation switched gears. The coach wanted to affirm why God was a good God, a real God, and clarify who God was. The woman listened closely, and for awhile she was with him and was being convinced. Still, the coach had yet to answer some of her most important questions. She was in a difficult position still wondering why a good God would let her friend die a miserable death. What words of insight did the coach have to offer?
He said that no man could answer that question. If anyone tried, they were not telling her the truth because God chooses not reveal His will in such cases. Most of the time, anyway.
The coaches answer missed the mark. It didn’t cut it for the woman. In the end, the woman felt the conversation was incomplete and she was disappointed. She thought that this time she may get some real answers, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen now.
When This American Life followed up, the show suggested they speak with the coach again with the host of the show in on the conversation. Maybe they could get a better answer with more heads involved? Whatever the logic may have been, the story was unresolved, and the woman wanted to believe in God—she just needed help with her unbelief. Keep in mind this was a basically atheistic program trying to aide this woman in her struggle to find reason to believe.
The coach welcomed a second round. This time the host of the radio show helped the conversation along seeking the answers to the woman’s questions. But in the end, nothing persuaded her the coach had to say. The woman went away from these events with more hope, but at the same time just as much struggle. Deep down, she knew that their had to be an answer other than “God isn’t real,” but knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt wasn’t coming together for her.
What decides what’s true and what’s untrue?
It is true that the Bible does not have everything the Lord does spelled out. We do not know why in all His goodness he let’s evil happen to those that are good people. This woman’s friend, her character being beside the point, was a loved individual and had made a positive impact on others. Her faith we do not know. Her life story we do not know. We just know that she died a horrible death.
But there is someone that knows much much more about this woman that passed of cancer; someone that knows more about that woman than even this close friend left behind the wrestle with the loss. This person is God Himself. The Bible affirms that God knows the number of hair on your head, He knows when the bird falls from the sky, he knows and cares for each flower in the field. “Then how much more important are you to the Lord than the flower of the field?”
One unanswered question should not call into question the validity of all truth. There are many questions to be asked about all things in life. Does man know why he needs to sleep? Does any person understand why gravity is a law that does not change at random? Does man know why the body will inevitably grow old and deteriorate—why nothing lives forever? Does man know why many animals eat their young to seemingly protect them? Do people know why we need government, and why government inevitably becomes corrupt and harms the people it sets out to help? Does mankind know why it perpetuates evil? How does one even know what evil is?
The answers to these and an infinite number of other relevant questions goes unanswered all the time—that is, if you’re unwilling to swallow the answer. The truth is, we all want to know why evil exists and perpetuates, but do you think that for any man an answer to that question would satisfy his soul? It wouldn’t because evil is so great it is overwhelming, and if the truth were told that man is responsible for all evil in the world, for most people the burden knowing this would be too much for people to bear. So man wanders the world looking for the answers but unwilling to accept one if the answer in and of itself does not reconcile the grievance of evil in the first place.
There can only be one truth, but no one ever promised that it would be simple and easy to understand. No matter what religion, scientific theory, political policy, human philosophy… the answers are not simple. With a world of infinite complexity and distinction of the creation of the universe around us, why do we think that it can all be reconciled with one easy answer that everyone will like?
And I don’t like prunes, but does that mean they don’t exist because I don’t agree with them? The truth is inescapable whether you agree with it or not. This is true of our parents, siblings, bank account, country, time zone, and on and on. Inevitably, I’m bound to accept the real world at large because my not liking it—accepting it—doesn’t change the fact that these are absolutes we all have. I can change where I stand on this earth, but no matter what, I can’t stop time. I can bleech my hair, but that won’t change my natural hair color.
I will continue this thought in my next post. Please stay with me.