"This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you!"
Have you ever heard this line before? It's a statement from parents designed to "comfort" their children right before they get a good old fashioned b-whooping.
Somehow I feel that whoever invented this tactic really didn't think things through too well. I mean, what kid hears that and is suddenly overwhelmed by relief that his/her parent is a participant in the pain being inflicted on the posterior?
I'm sure that moms and dads know that as well ... so why bother saying it?
That's the question I asked for years, until I became a parent myself. You see, as a kid I was on the front end of more than a few tail smacks – which (I believe) qualifies me to speak on the subject. Typically it was a result of my sarcastic speech, other times a consequence for my stubborn will. In fact, there were a few occasions where the two combined to earn me a free trip to planet pain and back ... all the while wondering how my folks would have the nerve to claim that they were experiencing a higher level of suffering.
As it turns out ... they were. I didn't figure this out until the first time I had to punish my children. No, I didn't suddenly get an unspecified pain in an unspecified area – but I did feel as if my heart were being ripped out. Suddenly I realized that mom and dad were right all along! At that moment I would have instantly traded the ache in my heart for a pain in my rear – but that's what goes along with the parenting territory. Unless I tied my kids up or turned them into mindless robots that I could control at every moment, they would have the freedom to disobey and face the consequences.
Sometimes I wonder if there was a discussion in the Trinity before the universe was created that went something like this:
"When we bring the universe into existence, the only way to create ultimate love will be to allow freedom of choice."
"Yes, and if we allow that, the possibility exists that our creation will have the option of rebellion – and in doing so will bring evil and suffering into this world."
"Which then means that we would have to endure the sight of agony and torment, and ultimately give our very own life to give them a chance at a happy ending?"
"I think this is going to hurt us more than it's going to hurt them..."
Which is something you need to remember the next time that age old question pops into your head:
"Why does God allow evil in this world?"
I'm not saying you shouldn't ask it. It's a natural thought when you look around and see unthinkable tragedies and unspeakable evil seemingly ruling and reigning over the world that God truly rules and reigns over. And keep in mind that amazing believers (Job, David, Jeremiah, etc.) processed through these issues directly with God Himself, because He is not threatened by our questions, confusion, and doubts.
I'm also not saying I have the complete answer to this question. I'm pretty sure no one will until we get to the afterlife ... but what I do know is that since the beginning of time, people have had choices, and oftentimes the freedom of choice brings about the presence of evil. God could have made us like mindless robots without the power to choose to love or reject Him and the freedom to decide between good and evil ... but what would be the point? He chose to give us choice, and our choices have brought evil and suffering into the universe. It started with Adam and Eve, and we've been following in our first parents' footsteps ever since. You can point a finger at God and try to pin the responsibility on Him, but when you do that just remember that you have many more fingers pointing right back in your direction.
So why doesn't God just wipe out all evil in one swipe? Let me ask you something ... if He decided to completely eliminate everything that was wrong, do you think you'd make the cut? I know I wouldn't.
No, evil and suffering are inoperable cancers that are completely embedded in our existence. That's why God Himself chose to come down from heaven, live a perfect life, die a horrible death, and come back from the grave to prove that this evil reality is not the only reality. Our short time here is only part of the story. God made a way for us to eventually be free of all evil and suffering – which is the best hope we have while we go through this life. The afterlife we look forward to is completely pain free, bought and paid for through the pain of God's Son...
Which is why it hurt Him more than it will ever hurt you.
Lane Palmer is the Youth Ministries Specialist for Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., where he works with to provide resources for youth leaders and students. Dare 2 Share exists to energize and equip teens to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries or the GameDay youth conference tour, please visit www.dare2share.org. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.