On the mornings when I can drag my carcass out of bed, I go swimming. It is good for me, I’m told, and I do feel better when I do it regularly. This morning, while in the water, I began to think about a question I heard on the radio yesterday, “If God is good, how could He send anyone to hell?”
The question gives me the impression that people picture God grabbing people off the sidewalk and tossing them on the fire for fun. I think a more accurate view would look like this:
Think of us all at sea, treading water. Our earliest ancestors were given a boat but they sank it, so all of us are born treading water. Since we were born to it, it seems normal to us, though at times it is hard for us to keep our noses above the surface.
There are “things” floating around us that we think might help our situation, and we attempt to cope with the job of staying afloat in various ways. Some people choose to grab for all the money they can reach because it can make floating more pleasant. The problem is, they are still at risk of sinking and are merely distracted for a while from the effort it takes to stay afloat. When they realize being wealthy doesn’t put off the inevitable, they lose the inner joy they were trying to buy.
Some people decide to put their efforts into exercising their bodies, since, after all, being more fit makes them able to tread water more efficiently. And it wouldn’t hurt any of us to be fit. So time goes by as we prolong our splashing a bit, but we still end up sinking in the end.
Some try putting together wonderful homes in the water. They get the best floating material they can find, priding themselves in the imported bamboo from across the world and having other touches that make it more “theirs”. After investing lots of time and effort to surround themselves with the best, they discover the material becomes waterlogged and does not give lasting support.
There are many other ways folks try to cope with the effort to keep breathing. Some try anesthesia, using drugs to try to numb the pain of the struggle to stay above water.
Others believe “all you need is love,” and set their goal to find that “special someone”. They suppose that with a caring person and love in their lives they can enjoy the job of treading water. But if both are sinking, they often begin to blame each other for not holding them up. They think that perhaps if they switch partners they’ll find someone who will make them forget all about sinking.
To compound our situation, there is a shark in the water. He goes about “seeking whom he may devour” and the destruction he brings hastens the sinking of many.
What a lot of people miss in their frantic splashing is that the Coast Guard has come to their rescue! This boat has thrown a life ring that can lift us and give us comfort for the remaining time in the water and then eventually haul us to dry ground. The Coast Guard offers this floatation for anyone who will trust enough to grab the ring and hold on, and it is the only reliable hope for escaping the clutches of the deep.
The irony is, some of us in the water have refused the life ring, and instead blame the Coast Guard for their sinking. They say, ”If the Coast Guard really cared, they would stop sending people to the bottom and they would not offer THAT life ring.” They don’t understand that this is a rescue operation, not an effort to make our time in the water more pleasant. Their rejection of the rescuer doesn’t make the rescuer uncaring, and their failure to accept the great effort made for them does not negate the effectiveness of the lifeline. It is there for all who grab on, and it works!
If you are still struggling to understand the point of this word picture, I would be happy to help you. We discuss the “Coast Guard” at church this and every Sunday.
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