When Apologetics gets Real: The Suffering of a Child
I knew the question was coming.
Even before we welcomed our soon-to-be-adopted daughter into our home, I knew it was coming. I was ready I thought. I had read so many books on the subject from some of the brightest theologians over the past 2000 years, listened to so many lectures and sermons, and have had many conversations about it. It was on my mind as soon as my wife and I decided to begin the process of adopting an older child (in our case, a 12-year-old) out of foster care. These older kids in foster care have suffered so much and no matter who our child would be, they would come to us from a broken past and would have suffered trauma we could not fully understand.
One afternoon in our garage, while I was working out and our daughter was riding her bike, she took a break and asked it. We were talking about books she likes to read, and she declared that she never wants to read any books that have to do with God. Please note that she had only been with us for a few weeks and was never asked to read any “God books,” so I was a bit surprised by her voluntary comment. I asked her why that is and she responded with something like this:
Because God doesn’t exist. If there is a God, why did he let me suffer like I did and allowed so many bad things to happen to me as a child?
A bit to my surprise, I was at a loss for words. I felt so comfortable with the topic and have had in the past what I thought were challenging conversations about it. It was different this time because through receiving this precious child into our life, we had entered the suffering with her. When a child you now call “daughter” has suffered a life you would have protected her from, her question seemed eerily unfamiliar as did all my answers running through my mind. I paused and just prayed.
This is not to say all my time spent reading and thinking about suffering, evil, and God was of waste. Certainly not. Not even in this situation. First, if you’ve thought through the subject well you can better listen to the other person and feel comfortable asking them more questions. Your mind isn’t racing in the moment in panic mode; it is listening. Second, having many jumping off points to discuss the topic, after hearing the other person’s question and maybe peeling it back a few layers, you can speak to their specific concern more effectively.
Christian apologetics is far from just having all the answers because that is impossible with God. We cannot have all the answers, but we can have clear thinking to reason with the questions. Also even though people are asking questions about God, they are not always looking for a direct answer. In my experience, most people want to be heard and understood first…
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