After discussing the greater good response to the problem of evil, pastor-theologian Randy Alcorn goes on to articulate a story as an example of God using evil for good. I almost broke down weeping by the end of it in Barnes and Noble for the sheer resilience of the human spirit as it relies on the grace of God. Maybe the world needs to see those tears.
“In light of this, doesn’t it seem logical, or at least possible, that a good God could have legitimate reasons for allowing evil and suffering to continue for the present? If so, then the problem of evil, while difficult, is not insurmountable.
Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell was working in the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, when the nose of the hijacked plane which ripped through the walls stopped just yards from where he lay burning and bleeding.
With more than 60 percent of his body blistered and his lungs seared, Birdwell made peace with God and readied himself for the relief of death. “I’m coming to see you,” he said to Jesus. But he didn’t die. An excruciating six days later, after being told that his chance of survival was less than 1 percent, he said a last goodbye to his twelve-year-old son. But he still didn’t die.
The next ninety-two days were filled with agonizing treatments, physical therapy, and over thirty-nine surgeries, including facial reconstruction. There is no way, he says, to describe the pain a burn victim experiences in recovery.
During his physical therapy, a pastor told him, “God never wastes our pain.” Birdwell disregarded the words at the time. But in 2002, he was asked to visit and encourage a badly burned young man. That experience shaped his future. Retiring from the Army in 2004, Brian, along with his wife, began a ministry to critical-burn survivors, helping them to see beyond their pain to eternal spiritual realities.
Brian says, “An 80-ton 757 came through at 530 miles an hour with 3,000 pounds of jet fuel and I’m still here and the plane isn’t,” and adds, “You don’t survive that because the Army made you tough. You survive it because the LORD’s got something else in mind for you.”
Suffering reminds us to stop taking life for granted and to contemplate the larger picture. God intends that it draw our attention to life-and-death realities far greater than ourselves. “
Randy Alcorn in “If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil” pgs. 42-43. 99 quotations from the book can be found here.
Below also is Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell’s “I Am Second” Interview