So, is God real? If yes, why is there suffering in this world? Why doesn’t God fix our problems, if He loves us? This is an old argument, and I learned the answer a few days ago.
Here is some background. Right now, where I live in Canada, we are in “Roll up the Rim to Win” season at Tim Hortons. Timmies is a cultural thing here, we all go there for coffee or tea and conversations. We also eat too many donuts there.
In season, we roll up the rims of our paper cups and learn what we have won. I usually win a chance to play again; they are very kind when they say “no.” When I win a free donut I tear off that statement from the rim, and keep the ticket. One thing I really don’t need is a free donut and I can think of something worse, two free donuts. I had two winning tickets that I carried with me like a guilty pleasure.
I do contract work, and some days I start early. I live in a northern city, so those work days start in darkness, in the winter. I’m used to it.
A few days ago, I walked out to my truck, on a cold dark morning, and I saw someone walking in the alley. I watched and the man had a bad limp and seemed lost. He also seemed harmless, so I asked him if he was OK. He was trying to get through private yards, with deep snow and fences, and he was frustrated. I gave him better directions, and if you are wondering, I couldn’t offer him a ride. I was on a schedule and we were going in opposite directions.
Then I made myself do something that I resisted. I held out one of my donut tickets and asked him if he wanted it. He snatched it out of my hand like it was important, and thanked me. That was my ticket, and it hurt to let it go, even if I was never going to use it.
So, how is this news, and how is this story worth reading? Why don’t I tell you something important? I gave a donut ticket to a stranger, beside a garbage bin, in the snow, on a dark morning.
That donut was a cup of cold water.
In the Bible, Jesus told us “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I solemnly tell you that he will not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42).
That refers to people helping the followers of Jesus, and that man did not seem religious, but cold water is only important to the one who is thirsty. It might mean nothing to the giver. The man in the alley really wanted that donut. We are also told “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed” (Proverbs 19:17).
The whole point is the other guy. Our culture is filled with narcissists, “What’s in it for me?” people who must be famous, and it’s hard to understand the other person’s needs. The common attitude is “How is this going to make me rich and famous?”
I can’t see God, but I can look in a mirror and see a servant of God. And I can look at the end of my arm and see a hand. When we have human suffering, we also have the power to make it go away. God does not need to intervene after delegating the job to us, there are 7.6 billion of us.
In the donut economy, I won another donut that same day, and I won a free cup of coffee two days later. Today I found someone digging through the garbage looking for cans to recycle for money, a dumpster diver, and I gave him tickets for coffee and a donut. He thanked me sincerely. Then a friend called and wanted to talk about some business, and guess where we met? He paid for a large cup of tea, but no donut, and I only won a chance to play again.
But then it’s not about me, or you. The whole world will know that God is real when people see us doing His work. They will have no doubt. The problem is to wrestle our egos down, and to wrestle the donut ticket from our tight grip. We will never get rich and famous doing that, and then doing “trivial” things for other people, and for God. I believe that is our most important assignment.
That is my recent answer to the old question.
I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. (Ephesians 1: 1 & 2)
… But this isn’t what you were taught about Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and you heard about him and learned about him. You were told that your foolish desires will destroy you and that you must give up your old way of life with all its bad habits. Let the Spirit change your way of thinking. (verses 20 to 23)
… Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ. (verse 32)