Recently a friend asked “How can you say God is good when He has the power to intervene and doesn’t? Would I be good if I saw one of my children in trouble and it was within my capacity to act on their behalf and I didn’t do it?”
In trying to make sense of this question, I thought of an incident from my oldest daughter’s infancy. Kristin was a precocious walker and at only ten months old she was making her wobbly way around our little house in Kansas. One bitterly cold winter’s day I stepped out of our kitchen onto the back porch to do some laundry. Knowing this would take only a couple of minutes, I left Kristin playing quietly in the kitchen letting the back porch door close behind me. I had my back to the door area, but became aware of a noise behind me. I turned just in time to see Kristin having pushed the door open to take a wobbly step down into the porch area to find her balance by placing the palm of her left hand flat on the top of a very hot gas space heater. I screamed and grabbed her, but not in time to prevent a significant burn to her hand. I ran next door to the church and got Steve and we rushed Kristin into the hospital emergency room to get her hand treated. I remember her cries as I held her hand against the freezing cold window all the way into the hospital some 25 miles away.
This incident was hard, but what followed was nearly unbearable. Kristin’s palm raised up in one huge blister. The ER doctor said that Kristin needed further treatment. Her hand needed to be immersed in a whirlpool treatment and then the dead skin needed to be cut away or she could face permanent scarring and crippling of her hand. So a couple of days after the burn, Kristin and I went back to the hospital. It was my job to hold her and, while doing so, immerse her little hand in a whirlpool bath of warm water. Then after her hand had soaked for a time, I held her while a medical person cut away the dead skin and then re-bandaged her hand. Needless to say, Kristin didn’t rest peacefully in my lap appreciating the effort I was making to keep her from being crippled. She cried long and loud. I can only imagine her broken heart as her Mommy participated in this painful procedure and held her down so that it could happen. I could’ve stopped what was happening, I could’ve picked her up and walked out of the room, but I didn’t. Clearly I did what I did completely from the standpoint of love, but there was no way Kristin could’ve understood what was happening as inspired by love. The mind of a ten month old can comprehend very little of the mind of a 24 year old.
As I remembered this incident I thought of how little the mind of man can comprehend the mind of God. The difference between what I understand of God’s mind and His work in my life is far greater than the difference between ten month old Kristin’s ability to grasp 24 year old Claudia’s mind and purposes.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor 2:9-16