Q: Why do people say, "God spared this person"? Why would God "spare" one person over another?
—Linda McCulloch, Colorado Springs, Colorado
A: Isn't that a funny thing to say? If someone escapes an accident, it's "God protected him." If they're slightly injured, it's "God protected him from serious injury." If they're seriously injured, then "God protected him from death." If the person died, "God wanted him in heaven."
Clearly, we don't have any idea what God's doing. We're making guesses, trying to reconcile what we see—that there is suffering and death in this life—with what we know: that God is all–powerful and all–loving. If God loves us, and He can do anything, why does anyone ever suffer or die? We don't know, and in case–by–case situations, we make childlike guesses.
But that's not to say God doesn't know. I once heard it said that God is like a master chess player. Moves occur on the board that spring from rebellious human free will or from the malevolence of the Evil One, and He does not use His omnipotence to overrule them; He permits them to happen. But they will not change the ultimate end of the game, which is that God will win. He is always able to make a counter–move, so that His will is ultimately done, and the players on the board are being gradually moved in line with His will.
So when a person is "spared" or "taken" it may not be a direct act of God; it may not have been a chessboard move God initiated. Sometimes we must look at a situation and say, "An enemy has done this," like the man who found weeds growing up among his wheat (Matt. 13:28). That farmer decided not to uproot the evil weeds immediately but to wait till the harvest to sort them out. There are a lot of things on earth that we won't understand—why someone was "spared" and another "taken home"—until the great Day when the books are opened, and all our guesses find their answers at last.
Frederica Mathewes–Green is the author of The Illumined Heart (Paraclete Press).
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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