As a kid I loved to play with Play Dough! I liked to squish the dough between my fingers, mold and create things. I could literally play for hours. I had molds for food and one of those presses that would let you make the different shaped spaghetti ropes. What fun I had!
Unfortunately there is a problem with Play Dough. It can be messy. No matter how careful you are when playing with it, inevitably there are those tiny pieces which stray getting ground into the carpet or tile.
As a parent and teacher, I always hated for the kids to play with Play Dough. I would watch as the mess and stray pieces grew larger and larger, spilling over the sides of the table onto the furniture and floor, all the while knowing what effort it would take to clean. It took all within me to not want to micro manage or just outright ban Play Dough.
This reminds me of another subject which can also be messy. How does a loving God allow bad things to happen? It does seem strange that if God is love, how he would allow horrible things to happen, or how he would allow all the suffering that is so prevalent in the world. Without getting to complicated, I would like to propose an answer that can be summed up in two thoughts: Freedom and patience.
Now I bet you are wondering what Play Dough has to do with all of this? Well… within the heart of man, God has placed something known as conscience. Conscience is what makes mankind different from robots. It’s what allows us the freedom to choose right from wrong, good from bad. In giving us this freedom, God takes the risk that not everyone will choose wisely. Just like when my kids are given the freedom to play with Play Dough, I know that they will do both good and bad things with it. They will build, mold and create while often making a terrible mess at the same time. (Then there are some children who you know from before even taking the Play Dough off of the shelf that they will do absolutely nothing constructive with it, but instead make a mess of gigantic proportions.) In humanity, there will be both those who use their freedom to do great things and others who make a total mess.
A second reason that God allows bad things to happen has to do with patience. God is patient. The Bible tells us that God is patience because he does not want anyone to perish. (2 Peter 3:9) Now perish is an interesting choice of words because it has a wide range of meanings. A quick google search reveals that it can mean to “suffer death, typically in a violent, sudden, or untimely way or also, suffer complete ruin or destruction.” God does not want his creation to perish, so he patiently waits for us to turn to him.
So bad things happen, not because God does not care, but rather because he chooses to give us freedom, rather than micromanage the world. He patiently looks on, all the while hoping for the best from creation and desiring that we would do great things with the freedom he has given us.