God allows hard things to happen, and we must acknowledge our limitations in understanding. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8-9). I don’t know why God allows these things to happen. But I know God. I know that he is good (Psalm 16:2). I know that he is faithful and just (Psalm 111:7).

Why did God let Christian get captured by the giant “Despair”?

This question from my 4-year old came out of nowhere as he was talking with my wife recently. About 6 months ago we read through Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress together as a family. If you’re not familiar with the story, the main character, Christian, leaves his home in the City of Destruction to escape the coming wrath of God. He goes through the wicket gate and sets out on the narrow path to the Celestial City. Bunyan allegorizes the Christian life and what it looks like to travel on the narrow path to salvation. (This book is amazing. If you haven’t read it, read it. If you have read it, let’s talk about it. This is my favorite book of all time. Did I say that I love this book? I love this book.)

But something interesting happens during Christian’s journey to the Celestial City. He, and his friend Hopeful, leave the path for a moment and are captured by the giant “Despair” and are locked in “Doubting Castle”. The giant beats them mercilessly, and it isn’t until Christian finds the master key that they are ever able to escape. In writing this, Bunyan acknowledges that even Christians on the narrow path can experience seasons of despair and doubt. Bunyan’s honesty about the Christian life is why I love this book so much. He doesn’t reserve despair and doubt for the weak, but as an experience of even faithful Christians. And then my son’s question: “Why did God let Christian get captured by the giant ‘Despair’?”

What struck me about his question was this: My 4-year old understood that God had allowed Christian to be captured. He understood that behind the scenes of that terrible event, God was in control. And now he was wrestling with the implications. Why would God allow that? And I’m certain that everyone at some point has had a similar question: In light of evil and sickness and despair and doubting, why is God allowing this to happen? And without question, our God is Sovereign over all things. The Psalmist writes, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

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