One of my best friends that I grew up with asked me a very hard question about God. I want to share this with you.
Let me back up first so you can see the context from which this question was sprung on me—and it was “sprung” on me.
My friend was not a Christian, but he was seriously considering it. He was one of my wild friends that I hung with in my crazy days. I reconnected with him a few years ago. He wasÂ married with kids and so was I. After our reconnect, which involved uncomfortable retellings of our former days of sin along with some (compromising?) laughter about such, we spent the next year talking about Christ. We would talked on the phone about once a week. Often it would be for hours late into the night. The conversations usually ended when he was too drunk to talk anymore!
During these talks, he would present his objections and questions and we would discuss the possible answers. Often he would put his wife on speaker phone to ask and listen along. I sent him a couple of books that really helped him overcome some of his misleadings concerning the nature of Christianity. Primarily he saw Christianity as a legalistic set of “do’s and dont’s.” He had never even come in contact with the idea of grace. Our conversations culminated in his reading of Chuck Swindoll’s Grace Awakening (a book that every Christian should read). He was refreshed. Hurdle #1, successful.
In the backdrop of our conversations was his supposed perception that Christianity is naive and has no place for the serious intellect reasonings. We talked much about this and I sent him a copy of Letters to a Skeptic. His objections were slowly losing their hopeÂ in hisÂ retention of unbelief. It was incredible to see the slow transformation. Hurdle #2, successful.
But then he asked “the” question that I did not expect.
It was the day of my sister’s funeral. He came to my parent’s house along with many other guests. He sat by the side of the house, timidly lurking about, not really knowing what to say. When we finally talked (it was the first time that I had seen him since our reconnect), our conversation led to Christ. He mentioned my sermon at the funeral and seemed very appreciative. But there seemed to be something desperate in his thoughts, something that was personal and apologetically selfish.
“Look, Michael,” he said, as if all our conversation until this point was just a deterring prelude to something more, “I get it!”
“Get what?” I responded.
“I get it. Call me whatever you want—a believer, Christian, or whatever . . . I get it. I believe.”
Then there was some silence. I knew there was something more.
He continued, “But I am scared.”
“Scared of what,” I said.
“You love Jesus and have been doing so much for him.,” he said. ”Yet look at what has happened to you. Look at what happened to your sister. Look at the pain of your family, especially your mom. Your mom has always been into Jesus.”
After another period of silence he asked, “Will God protect my kids?”
I did not know how to respond. I did not expect this.
“Yes, of course he will protect your kids. God did not hurt my sister. God wanted my sister to live, but she decided to take her own life. God was not in control of this.”
I almost wanted to say this, but it would not have been the truth. God was in control. God could have protected her. But he did not. My theology did not provide me with the opportunity for such an easy answer.
I finally responded, “I don’t know if God will protect your kids in the way that you desire. I really don’t. I am sorry.”
I had no guarantees for my friend. There were no prenuptial agreements that he could have had God sign. Loved ones of Christians do die. What was I supposed to say?