The whole picture

Reading Time: 6 minutes








Can you tell what this is a picture of? View1

I have learned over the years that making decisions or judgments on situations or people without having a full view, or at least a satisfactory vantage point can lead to some serious mistakes.

I remember out of High School I considered applying for a position with Aramco, a Kuwait Gulf Oil Company. This was prior to the Internet, so the fliers and paperwork came through the snail mail. Weeks went by as they would send me information pertaining to the various positions available. I would have started at the bottom, but after a few years with the company, things looked promising. I don’t recall all events that steered me away from heading to Kuwait, but one was a job up in Calaveras county. No telling how things would have turned out had I accepted one of the many entry level positions Aramco offered when just a few years later Kuwait was invaded by Iraq.

On August 2nd, 1990, General Georges Sada received a call from the air force headquarters in Baghdad; he was to meet with Saddam Hussein and his cabinet, and act as an adviser for the invasion of Kuwait. General Sada had retired 10 years prior and had been teaching at the three military colleges in Iraq. His field of expertise was the air war, strategy, tactics, and logistics.

In the coming months, General Sada met with Saddam Hussein and his military intelligent staff multiple times to discuss the American air power in the Red Sea, Mediterranean, and the capabilities of the Israeli air-force. Then in November of 1990, General Sada learned they were looking into attacking Israel.

Before General Sada spoke openly to Saddam, he asked for “permission to speak freely, with immunity.” 1 Sada was fearful, and rightfully so, of being killed on the very spot he stood for delivering bad news. Others before him had suffered such a fate, and many of the advisers in the room had seen it first hand.

He told Saddam that, “attacking Israel would be like the blind attacking the sighted…I told Saddam that the reason I had used that expression is because the Israeli aircraft have very advanced radar, with the capability to see more than 125 miles in any direction. On the other hand, 75 percent of Iraqi aircraft were Russian-made, and the range of the radar on our fighters was only about fifteen miles.” 2

CusterIf Custer had a bird’s eye view of the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho encampments in June of 1876, he and his men might not have been killed.





PearlIf Admiral Yamamoto, who planned the Pearl Harbor attack in World War II, had seen the absence of our aircraft carriers from Pearl, he could have delayed the attack and dealt the U.S. an even more destructive blow by sinking our aircraft carriers.




TsunamiHad Indonesia seen the coming earthquake and tsunami in 2004, 14 countries would not have lost over 230,000 people.





Folsom LakeIf our meteorologists had more advanced technology, maybe California could have better prepared for the drought we are experiencing.





Rim fireHad the hunter known his camp fire would start the massive Rim Fire, on August 17th, 2013, he may have been more careful, or not started it at all.





As adults, we can see the obvious advantages to having a full picture. We understand the reasons for a flu shot are to avoid illness during the flu season. If we did not see the reasoning for having a sharp needle stuck in our arm or butt cheek, why on earth would we pay someone do that?

As adults, we understand the reasons for chemotherapy or radiation treatment to fight cancer. Without the threat of death from cancer, no one would subject themselves to poisonous treatments in an effort to kill the cancer.

All of us have experienced something that was disappointing, painful, or heart wrenching, but later we were able to look back at the event or events with a wider a view of the circumstances, and see some possible reasons, or even benefit for it having taken place. That was certainly the case of the crew on the U.S.S. Hornet, when they watched the men of Torpedo 8 Squadron launch, never to return. All of them died without laying a scratch on an enemy ship, but thankfully their story did not end there.

What is difficult for all of us are the events that, despite a wide view, don’t make any sense. Events that bring pain, suffering, or even death, but for no apparent reason. Even years later, some never see any possible justification for what they went through. I don’t think this is any more obvious than the death of a child or unexpected loss of a loved one.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest sacrifices in World War II was suffered by Thomas and Alleta Sullivan. All five of their sons wouldn’t sign up unless they were allowed to serve together on the same ship. The Navy acquiesced, and all the brothers all served on the USS Juneau (CL-52). During the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Juneau was hit by two torpedos and sank, taking down most of the crew. The few survivors reported that three of the Sullivan brothers were killed instantly, a fourth succumbed to his injuries the next day. George, the oldest of the brothers survived several days on the open sea, continually calling for his brothers. He finally swam away from his raft to an imagined shore to get help for his siblings, but was never seen again. 3

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek list the five most consequential questions we can ask ourselves.
1. Origin: Where did we come from?
2. Identity: Who we are?
3. Meaning: Why we are here?
4. Morality: How should we live?
5. Destiny: Where are we going?

They rightfully point out that each of these questions, or more specifically, how we answer these questions, depends on the existence of a higher power. 4 If there is not a God that created us in his image, with meaning and purpose, then what transpires in our lives has no meaning. Pleasure, victory, success, or suffering, defeat, and failure, amount to the same. Ultimately dust and nothingness.

Those who believe in God know and understand that despite the suffering and loss we experience, our lives do have meaning and purpose. Some times the reasons are revealed in our lives, (John 9:1-7) and other times they are not. (Prov. 3:5-6)

This weekend, my students are having to memorize some quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of my favorites is, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” (John 20:29) We will never understand all the pain and suffering in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us, but those that can put their trust in a Savior can find deep joy and satisfaction, despite their circumstances. (Philippians 4:6-7)

That first picture? If you want to know what it was, just click here.



1. Sada, Georges. Saddam’s Secrets How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein. Brentwood: Integrity Publishers, 2006. Print.
2. Ibid.
3. Patterson, Michael. “The Sullivan Brothers” Arlington cemetery., 24 August 2005. Web 14 March 2015
4. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.



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The Whole Picture by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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44 Questions Christian’s can’t answer

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Why do innocent children have to suffer with terminal diseases such as cancer? What part of ‘God’s plan’ is this exactly?

The question of evil and why there is suffering in this world is something we all struggle with, especially if you believe, (as I do), in an all knowing, and all powerful God. Romans 8:28 explains that everything works together for the good of those who love Him and are called by Him.

Well that sounds great, but to the unbeliever who has lost a parent, friend, or child to cancer it does little or nothing to comfort them. R. E. Pucket has a list of difficult questions you can find here, and this is number 6 on the list.

Some of the questions are legitimate, and others frankly seem silly, nevertheless I am working through them. The question of children suffering with painful and lengthy diseases such as cancer, and finally yielding to the illness, with a supposed purpose in mind, can be difficult for anyone to understand.

Mark Mittelberg said of Romans 8:28, “This is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible – and also one of the most abused. First, it does not say that everything that happens is good. Rather, it acknowledges the reality that many things that happen in our lives are bad, but it assures us that God can use them for good or bring good out of them.” 1

Furthermore, God does not promise us an explanation for the suffering we see and experience. For those of us who are, or have been, parents of little children, we do the best we can to explain why they have to get a shot at the doctor. Yet despite our comforting and explanations, the tears still flow, and until they are older, much of the discomfort they experience at the hand of a doctor or dentist is beyond their understanding.

After hearing of the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed – might grow tired of his vile sport – might have a temporary fit of mercy, as an alcoholic have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before that operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.” 2

Finally, Romans 8:28 does not promise that all the bad we experience will bring forth good, but only those, “who love God and are called according to his purpose” can share in that promise.

Mittelberg supplies us with a short list of some of the good that can come out of suffering.
1. God can use pain to deepen our character.
2. He can use pain to reshape us as his sons and daughters.
3. He can use pain to give us a more spiritual and eternal perspective.
4. He can use pain to protect us from ourselves.
5. He can use pain to grab our attention and teach or redirect us in ways that will be important.
6. He can use pain to lead us to himself. 3
7. He can use pain to demonstrate His sacrifice for us.

I added number seven to the list because, without suffering, we would have no idea or understanding of Christ’s suffering on the cross for our salvation. Too many nominal believers have this concept of God as someone who does not want us to suffer. Their view is more like that of humans and their pets, as if the purpose of our lives is to be happy, while God just feeds us and takes care of us, when our actual purpose in life is to know God.

William Lane Craig put it this way, “One reason that the problem of suffering seems so puzzling is that people naturally tend to assume that if God exists, then His purpose for human life is happiness in this life. God’s role is to provide a comfortable environment for his human pets.” 4 The purpose God has for us in this life is not limited to what we experience here on earth. How our experiences in this life affect the life we have beyond this is anyone’s guess, but for the Christian, it is a comforting thought that cannot be shared by an unbeliever.

Just dwelling on that should give us as believers a sobering perspective. I recall years ago an old Star War episode when Darth Vader had captured Han Solo. They tortured him for a period of time and then returned him to his room. Han Solo’s comment was, “They never even asked me any questions.” If they had wanted some information, he would have at least seen a purpose to his suffering.  Suffering for a purpose gives us all strength to endure, and those who see no purpose in suffering struggle in ways many of us cannot imagine.

Craig wrote, “The ‘health and wealth’ gospel and the gospel of positive thinking that are being proclaimed in various megachurches and denominations are false gospels…”5 He is right. Can you imagine preaching that message in the Middle East in the presence of ISIS or the Muslim brotherhood? It is a false gospel, as hollow and dry as an empty snail shell at the end of summer. The first moment of outside pressure will crush the thin shell of that lie. Craig went on to say, “If it won’t preach there, it isn’t the true gospel. We need to understand that God’s plan for human history may involve terrible suffering for us, whose point or reason we can’t expect to see. Our hope lies not in worldly happiness but in that day when God will wipe away every tear.” 6

Jeremy Begbie gave a lecture in the Veritas Forum at the University of Berkeley exactly one month after the 9/11 attack. He is a multimedia lecture-performer and actually specializes in the the interface between theology and music.

Begbie spoke about a time he was in a black South Africa township. He was told that just before the service a house around the corner had burned to the ground, the night before a teen who was a member of that church was hunted down and killed, and a week prior a tornado came through destroying homes and lives. The pastor began in prayer asking why these things were happening. Groans from the congregation could be heard with each question. When the prayer ended they began to sing. Begbie wrote, “They sang and they sang, song after song of praise – praise to a God who in Jesus had plunged into the very worst to give us a promise of an ending beyond all imagining. The singing gave that congregation a foretaste of the end. Christian hope isn’t about looking around at the state of things now and trying to imagine where it’s all going. It’s about breathing now the fresh air of that ending, tasting the spices and sipping the wine of the feast to come.” 7


1. Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2010. Print
2. Craig, William L. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
3. Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2010. Print
4. Craig, William L. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010. Print
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Willard, Dallas. A Place For Truth. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2010. Print

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44 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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