keys: how a perfect and loving God could allow such pain

blank key display

i recently spent some extended time of prayer with a small group of friends we meet with every week. we put on some peaceful music, and just spent some time lifting up our thoughts to God. (on a side note, prayer really has to be one of the most underrated aspects of religion. the benefits of being able to lift up your concerns to an all powerful, all loving God is so relieving. i don’t know how anyone gets by without it.)

but back to my story. i wrapped up my silent prayer a few minutes before we closed. this left me simply to sit in silence and think. and it brought me to a bit of a revelation: the fact that i was finished with my prayer changed nothing about my proximity to God, or about His awareness of my thoughts or feelings. if He is the omnipresent, omnipotent Being the Bible describes Him to be, then my prayer does little to “allow” him to be more aware of anything i may be feeling or doing.

now, this may not seem like much of a revelation, but it had some implications for me that i was left chewing on for some time. there have been some experiences in my life that He is the last i would like to know about. if He were fully aware, why didn’t He step in and do something? and, knowing that i have done such terrible things, why in the world would He ever want to use someone like me for His purposes? or, what about those terribly painful experiences i’ve been through. why wouldn’t an all-loving God step in and not allow them to take place (assuming He was completely aware of them)?

not long after asking these questions, an analogy came to my mind that i have found to be a helpful answer. the analogy involves keys. not in a figurative sense, as in “the five keys to happiness,” but literally as in the key you use to open a door.

if you’ve ever been to a place that copies keys, you’ve likely seen the keys before they’ve been “cut” to match your key. the local hardware store i have in mind has a large section of their wall behind the register dedicated to these blank keys, all hanging neatly with their straight edges, looking very perfect. but, the thing about these keys is that even though they look perfect, they’re completely useless until they have been cut. it’s only when they have had some gouges and nicks put into them (in all of the precisely right places) are they of any value. try and use one of the blank keys to open your door or start your car and it will not work, it will only leave you frustrated and asking for a refund.

and i think we’re a lot like those keys. God wants to use those who know Him to share Him with others who don’t know Him, but who desperately need Him in their lives. but He doesn’t want to use blemish-free, “perfect” people for this. why? because it won’t work. someone struggling with addiction, for example, will likely have a very difficult time hearing The Message of God’s love for them through the voice of someone who has absolutely no idea about the pain and struggles they have been through. it will take a voice of experience to reach this person, someone who is familiar with the dark roads they have walked and yet who has experienced the warm, loving hand of Christ picking them up out of the filth of their struggles, and holding them closely in His loving arms of forgiveness to be able to effectively express this to the person who needs to hear it.

and that is why i believe God allows us to experience such hurt, such absolutely terrible things (or at least one reason). it’s so that when we find that person who’s experiences we fit with, who has experienced the same struggles and pains in this world as we have, that we can genuinely share the love of a Savior who knows our specific needs. those cuts aren’t by coincidence, they’re there for a reason, in the precise place they need to be for Him to be able to share Himself with His children.

but, as C.S. Lewis would say, this is simply how i look at it. you will not find this belief deeply rooted in Scripture, but it works for me. if it doesn’t work for you, if there are too many gaping holes in this way of thinking that you simply can’t swallow, then throw it out.

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