If there is one question that pastors get asked more than any other it is this: “why does God allow for His people to suffer? If God is so good then why would He let his beloved people wallow in a hospital bed wracked with cancer or self-destruct from mental illness? Where is the justice in that?” To be perfectly honest, this is not only a good question, but it is also a fundamental breaking point for many would-be believers. Though I can not pretend to have all the answers here, (and I definitely don’t for this question) there is a great gaming analogy that I can use that might help with our understanding with some of this, especially when it comes to God’s treatment of his people in the Old Testament.
Allow me, if you will, to use an example from a modern day spin on ancient myths and cultures. The story comes from the game God of War (the new one with Thor and Viking stuff), and it revolves around the treatment that the father, Kratos, gives his son Atreus during their journey. In the God of War universe, Kratos is the Spartan son of Zeus who eventually finds vengeance on the entire Greek pantheon by killing them in the first three games. After this, Kratos finds himself much older and living in the northern regions of Midgard with a young son and deceased wife. Kratos’ wife, Faye, died of unknown causes and her final wish was to have her ashes spread on the highest peak of the nine realms. Kratos takes on this task with his boy in toe, and the journey is nothing less than brutal.
A reoccurring theme in this game is discipline, particularly that which comes from a father. In the very beginning of the game, Kratos takes his son out to hunt a great stag. After wounding the animal, Kratos harshly chastised his son for not taking the killing blow and allow for the great animal to suffer. After giving chase, they find the stag mortally wounded. Kratos gives Atreus his hunting knife and instructs him to lay the beast to rest. Try as he might, however, the young boy can not bring himself to put the animal out of its misery. Seeing the boy struggling, Kratos places his hand over Atraus’, lending his strength to push the knife down and finish the job. This very act sets the stage for how Kratos will respond to Atreus throughout the entire game; through discipline and tough love.
Kratos is most certainly not an example of a perfect father, but his treatment of Atreus does serve as a great reminder that discipline is not always light and easy. Given the circumstances, Kratos has to be hard on his son because of the great trouble that he is constantly in. As his constant ward, Atreus faces off against monolithic monsters that could snap him like a twig, and any mistakes that the young demi-god makes will certainly kill him. Kratos’ hard teaching force Atreus to rise to the occasion, and I can think of one other place where this is consistently true; within the pages of the Bible.
If you look at God’s treatment of his children Israel, you will see strong similarities to that of Kratos and Atreus. Often God can be seen telling his children, “you walked away from me so you will have some consequences for your actions.” Within God of War, Kratos can be heard speaking harshly to Atreus about missing a shot at an enemy or getting into a situation that puts him in danger. All of this is done out of love, even though it can easily be taken as spite. The Scriptures can attest to God’s seemingly harsh treatment of the children he loves in Proverbs 3:11-12:
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
God uses a wide variety of ways to disciple his children, and many times they are seen as being unfair. Within the Scriptures, He is often seen using the hands of other nations to bring his people to repentance. Other times he can be seen directly influencing events to draw his children from their destructive path. It is my understanding that God still works this way today, but He doesn’t do this because He is hateful and unloving. He does all of this because He is faithful and just. Being outside of time and space, God can see and orchestrate an innumerable amount of events to achieve an innumerable amount of outcomes. Being human, we simply can not fathom His plan.
Throughout their journey, Atreus simply trusted his father’s guidance in the midst of all the dangers. Even when Baldur, one of the main villains of the game, kidnaps Atreus, the boy doesn’t give up hope that his father will come and rescue him. As bad as things can get in this life, we must handle each circumstance with faith knowing that our Father is just in guiding and protecting us.
If you like reading these devotionals make sure to “follow” this blog. I post new content every Tuesday, Thursday, and over the weekend. Nowadays video games are just as much a part of the culture as books, so I believe that it is important for someone to connect the content of this piece of culture back to the Scriptures. If you have any suggestions or observations that can benefit this site, feel free to leave a comment below.
Till next time, God Bless and game on!