by Earle West

Last fall, at my daughter's soccer game, the hired referee for the game didn't show up. Referees had often been late, but for this one game the referee never showed up at all.

At the appointed time to start, both teams and all of the coaches and onlooking parents grew frustrated. Where was the referee? At the remote location, we couldn't even find a passer-by to give up an hour to referee our game. So there we were, with 20 girls ready to play, 4 coaches, and a few dedicated parents, unable to enjoy the game because there was no one to referee!

Eventually, the coaches, got together and agreed that, rather than cancel the game, one or two attending parents should referee the game. This had never been done before. After all, what parent could be impartial and fair? Even if a parent was as fair as could be, the outcome of the game would always be questioned, if that girl's team won. Finally, the coaches got together and asked the small crowd of parents for a volunteer. But then something odd happened. No parent wanted to preside over the loss of their own daughter's team, or taint the victory of their win! The coaches begged everyone, and no one moved. Now, I was growing frustrated. I've never refereed, or even played the game. I asked the coach: "what are the requirements for a referee?" "The referee must know all the rules of the game, he must enforce the rules on everyone, or else the game isn't worth playing," said the coach. "I know the rules," I said, "what else is there?" "The referee must also actively participate, watching carefully how each player plays the game. You must run up and down the field with all of the players, and stay close to the game, or else the game won't be fair." "You must know where the boundaries are, and be there to stop the game when the rules are broken, and to get the game going again every time." "You must also have a watch. You must time the game, and stop it when the hour is up. And you must enforce the clock no matter how close a team is to making a goal."

So I volunteered. The unfriendly mumbling from the crowd made me realize why no one had volunteered for this job. I heard comments from both sides: "Hey, if your team doesn't win this time, they'll never win!!" I thought about quitting, but I wanted the kids to have a good game, so I committed to be as fair as I could be, whatever the outcome. May the best team win!

Tempting as it was to help my daughter's team, to give them the benefit of the doubt, I worked hard to be even-handed. Both sides needed me to be fair. Only by enforcing the same rules for each team would the best team prevail. If I did anything to help my daughter's team, everyone would know, and their win would be questioned, and playing the game would have been a sham. The players and the coaches needed to know who was the better team, because a trophy was at stake. What a shame for the trophy to go to a team that wasn't the best. No one wanted that to happen.

In the grand battle of good and evil, is God a fair referee? He was once accused of tampering with the victory of good over evil (Job 1), and chapters later we find the accusation just wasn't so. God is a good referee. He knows the rules of the game. He actively follows all of the players involved. He will also end the game at the appointed time. And the best team will have won, not because He intervened and made them win, but because love does conquer hate, good triumphs over evil, and truth outlasts untruth. We know this, and we depend on it. Any fair test will show these things to be true.

When we ask "why does God let good people suffer?" aren't we really asking: "why doesn't God adjust the rules once in a while just to make it a little easier for His team?" More people would follow Him, if only to benefit from His intervention! I certainly would. But then it might be said that was the only reason some follow Him. Even those who love Him for other reasons might wonder how much of it is so, if indeed any of it were.

It would be a strange world indeed, if faithful God-fearing believers didn't need airbags or seatbelts, or even good brakes because God will intervene for them more often than not. Insurance companies would adjust their rates, and people could choose to be God-fearing, and save money! Sadly, that kind of special treatment would only make God's people habitually more neglectful than others, and of course it would only give Satan better material than Job.

The truth is good people generally suffer for the same reasons evil people suffer. God made nature, and we live and benefit from its rules. Sometimes we know the reasons people suffer, and sometimes we do not. We are blessed with knowledge of God that others do not often have, and sometimes that helps us avoid suffering. We also have knowledge of the love of God, which comforts in our affliction. The problem is that suffering goes hand-in-hand with life. Ever since Adam and Eve chose to live apart from God, that's been one of the rules we made for ourselves.

Has God abandoned us? No. He knows our every weakness, He knows our every move. And at the appointed time, He will judge right from wrong. In the end, He will be proven right, and the way of life He told us to live will be proven best.

Will God answer my prayers? The apostle Paul was told not everything would be granted him. God is not a genie in a bottle, as many people seem to want Him to be. Church people today need to do some growing up. We need to think about our frequent selfish request. Do we really want to give Satan another opportunity to accuse God? A spiritual person would never be part of that. Notice, Job never did expect God to restore his wealth.

My daughter lost the game that day. I blew the ending whistle just before her team scored a goal. I had to. I had already given them five extra minutes to even the score.

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, Jul/Aug97.