As a kid, I used to sit in his big La-Z-Boy chair. In my grandpa Jack's lap, he and I talked and played. To the outside world, he was "Brother Jack" or the "Pastor," but to me, he was always just Jack. We chatted about everything from ice cream to getting married to television shows. But one question he posed to me all those years ago still circulates back into my mind from time to time:
"Courtney, could God make a rock so big that he couldn't lift it?"
The easy answer is to say "both" and explain the theological rationale of each side. But that's not how I was raised. My dad surely did not coach me on long road trips to "play debate"--urging me to give a rebuttal explaining why we needed a dog in the house--just for me to answer "both."
Of course, my stubborn, debate-fed, strong and first-born will wanted to give a solid answer to Jack. And of course, in my strong will I thought I knew the answer.
"No." Because there's nothing too strong for God to lift.
Years later, my answer changed. Surely I now knew more about God's sovereignty (wink). Jack was still an active grandfather in my life, although he no longer teased me with this question I still pondered.
My answer changed to, "Yes." Because God can do anything He chooses to do. If he chose to make a rock too heavy, He could. This was factual to me, not stating we have an emotionless God who just does what He pleases without love. This was a belief in a loving God who is able to do anything, plan anything. He is God of all, after all.
The shake of America occurring in Boston reminded me again of this question. Because we now hear whispers and shouts of another hard question. Some people ask it out loud; others in their hearts.
"How can you still say God is good? Is He?"
I want you to know where I sit. Really. I'm not blogging from a tragedy-free life. This post is not from someone who claims to know everything (although I probably used to as a pre-teen!) I'm not writing this as if I never doubted or questioned God. This is from someone who grieves with Martin's parents this morning, whose been praying specifics for his Mama, who is sad for the death now associated with an event containing much spark of life.
It's late April. We're about to embark on a season of tourism. Everything---everything-- becomes an attraction. Families take monumental steps into Graceland, Mickey Mouse's house, and the Home of the World's Largest Peanut all in the name of vacation. I love it. Many vacation markers such as these come with a tour, a place where you can say "this is where this was made or began--right here!" I'm a sucker for where a famous person stood or the origin of something great.
What if we could tour God's heavenly "factory?" Essentially, this is what we mean when we ask if God is good. Our minds wonder if any of these evil outcomes on earth can be traced back to God. Questions pop up--- Was this His plan? Why didn't He stop this? Does He still love? I thought He was good.
It's important that we note that God does not need our PR. He doesn't need me to defend Him because of the attacks or disasters. But we ask and answer the question of God's goodness because we need the answer. Not as a crutch or feel good, flowery words to help us do good deeds. But because our souls need to know. It's the oxygen to our hearts.
We can get tangled up in this one, much like the "rock" question of my childhood. But they both have answers. Fast forward to the present, and I changed my answer to the rock question, yet again. This time, I think, for good. Reverting to childlike faith (distinguishable from childish), I believe that the answer is no.
He cannot make a rock so big that He cannot lift it.
This has everything to do with how we answer our adult question of if God is good.
Because the truth is there are things God simply cannot do.
He CANNOT lie.
God's Word says this as simply as I just stated. This answers that God is good because He "does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13: 6). He is good because when evil tries to end something, it's not the end of God's story. He has the final word. And it's a word wrapped in grace. To those who believe in Him, there will be a giving back in abundance the years the locusts have eaten (what's been robbed from us).
He cannot make a rock so big that He cannot lift it. Because this is a question of His strength, His character, neither of which can be altered. And the created is never stronger than the Creator.
The question really was never about the size of the rock. It was about the person behind the rock and if the characteristics of the person could change. We all long to know this. In every story, is He always the strongest? Most loving? Perfect? Not just good, but the best?
Is He still good when tragedy strikes? Yes.
It's just this--- He is good, and this world is not.
If there's anything He can't do, it's that He cannot lie, which means He can't change His character, or be anything less than so much more---than we could ever dream up.