God can create in you a happy heart or a despondent heart whenever He pleases and for reasons He has no obligation to explain. He might comfort us when we suffer by showing us certain scriptures that we find reassuring, but He might also make us experience terribly uncomfortable emotions that make us long for some kind of escape or respite.
God answers to no one, and this is both a comforting thing and a frightening thing. It is comforting to know nothing happens by chance, but it is also terrifying that God can make individuals suffer for as long as He wishes and without any restraint or need for justification. He is all-powerful — no sincere believer can argue against God’s absolute sovereignty and total freedom to do as He pleases.
We say ‘God is love’ and it seems to me that God is merciful. Even when humans transgress terribly, there is always hope of transformation and restoration. But even for those who believe they are devout and pious believers, can anyone really know for sure that God won’t recall their sins and condemn them to torment on the day of judgement?
Christians talk of the blessed assurance they find in Jesus Christ, but God does as He wills. Nobody can be certain of their destiny, because God has total freedom. You can believe in a certain promise you find in Scripture, and you can plead with God to keep His promises, and He may listen and do so, but He also may not. God is beholden to no one. This is the reality.
Everyone who knows that God exists wants to have peace with Him. Every believer longs for the certain knowledge that God is merciful; that He will not punish them. The motivation behind all religious discourse and behaviour is the desire for peace and happiness. We all want to escape suffering, whether it be through obtaining worldly comfort in this life, or striving to attain mercy in the life to come.
Let us say God grants you a place in paradise in the life to come. Does this diminish His power to do whatever He chooses? Is your reward necessarily everlasting, or does God have the freedom to change His mind, and change your circumstances, at any time of His choosing, whether in this life or in the life to come?
What gives me personally the most hope is knowing that all creatures partake of God’s nature. I believe in the idea that all of existence is contained within God (He is omnipresent) and therefore if God were to cause us great misery and suffering He would be doing so, in a sense, to Himself. It doesn’t seem logical that God would make people suffer greatly without respite, because we are only puppets of His sovereign will, and no one has ever done a single thing which was not willed and directed by God. He has no reason to punish us that He has not orchestrated Himself. Nevertheless, God does whatever He pleases.
Who knows the reasons why God doesn’t simply end all suffering? He must have His reasons, and with His wisdom being so vast, we are not in a position to question God’s motives. Whether we want to or not, we submit to God’s will. We can pray 100 times a day for God to act in a certain way and maybe He will listen, maybe He won’t. God makes the rules, He doesn’t need to explain Himself, as much as we might want Him to.
Every circumstance, situation, or act, can be viewed in an infinite number of different ways. What may seem sinful in a certain light may be viewed as a righteous act when considered from a different angle. An act that may seem humorous at a point in time may seem like a terrible sin at a different point in time. God has the freedom to decide in every instance what He will do with any human being in response to any act, and every act is open to endless interpretations.
Say, for example, God puts a person in prison. Is there anything stopping God from setting that person free for any reason He wills and at any time He chooses? And conversely, can a free person ever be sure that God will not place him in prison for any reason and at any time?
You may say, ‘God makes certain promises in Scripture and He will keep them’. Maybe so, but you cannot be sure. For as long as God has freedom, and for as long as God controls all things, there is no definite peace or security. Yes, God has the ability to make and keep promises, just as He has the ability to change His mind at any time.
I do not believe it’s wise to underestimate God’s freedom to do as He pleases, because this is the reality in every situation, undoubtedly. I have a hope (but it can only ever be a hope) that God is ultimately gracious and merciful to every sentient being.
Suffering can be terrible — deeply horrible to experience — so please God, be merciful. If any aspect of our behaviour or personhood angers You or displeases You, please overlook these issues and choose mercy for us. Look upon us kindly and give us the means by which we can live in a way that is pleasing to You, always. Help us to flee from every transgression that might offend You, and hold us in Your mercy and peace forever. Amen.