I frequently think about the suffering in this life -- more and more with every year -- including very painful emotional distress. It seems like there is a randomness to life. We read "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev 21:4). This passages assumes a divinely determined current order of things, different from the current order, which includes pain, joy, sorry, happiness, etc. These events may seem random, but all are actually in keeping with the current order God has set up. What do you say? -- Dave

You are on to something important. Indeed the order will change. I believe that in the next life there will be no suffering  — and no sin. We will not sin, for the same reason that Jesus did not sin: he saw too clearly what sin was and what it does — he was too smart to sin. In the same way that neither of us is tempted to remove our eyes with a grapefruit spoon, so in heaven it would never even enter our minds to violate the will of God.

Strict Calvinists deny the random. We often hear them say, "Nothing happens by chance," or "There are no coincidences." They hold that everything has a purpose, ordained by God. He determines what will be, just as he determined what was. He has ordained one man to be saved, the other to go to hell, and there’s nothing we can do to affect his will one iota. We rightly reject this view, which makes God a monster. Of course they are right that everything that happens is willed (caused, ordered, or permitted) by God to happen — whether as part of his providential, moral, or permissive will.

Atheists affirm randomness, and see neither meaning nor purpose in suffering or anything, for that matter. But the world is not meaningless. They give up too easily. Skepticism can be good, but not blindness.

I would say the Lord permits a degree of randomness — a large one. He doesn’t interfere with the order of things, with natural processes, with the consequences of action. Of course you and I have experienced his answering of prayer, yet how often does insert himself into our story to effect a different outcome? Sometimes. If too often, how would anyone detect a miracle? If never, how easy it would be to drift into agnosticism.

At any rate, God doesn’t order randomness, if you mean determine its direction — in which case there would be no randomness. But it certainly seems he permits it, from the accidents taking place on a genetic level when cells divide to quantum effects, where determinacy is fuzzy. “Time and chance happen to them all “(Ecc 9:11).

If the Lord intervened every time someone was about to do the wrong thing, how would we ever learn? If he tilted the playing field every time we were about to score an “own goal,” what about everybody else? Rain falls on one farm to bring wet and rot, on another to make crops grow — and maybe on a different type of field to rain out the game. Everyone may be praying for contrary results, so making God directly responsible for all that happens lands us in a hopeless tangle of logical contradictions.

The question has a lot to do with our understanding of prayer. And that’s also why I’ve thought a lot about this. Thanks for bringing up the question, Dave.