My six-year-old son had a bike wreck (he's okay), and amidst his tears he asked me why, if God can do anything, do we have owiees? That's really the question that sums up all of life, isn't it? How you answer that question sums up your religious beliefs.
I told him that owiees are just a part of what is wrong with the world. They do serve some good. They let us know that there is a problem. If your knee didn't hurt when you scraped it you might not take care of it, and it could get worse. If it didn't hurt when you bonked your head then we wouldn't try to not bonk our heads, and we'd probably all be senseless by now. So pain and suffering reminds us that there are bad things in this world that need fixing.
Being in his fourth year of The Gospel Project he knew that I was talking about the Fallen Nature of mankind. With a pained look on his face he sniffled, "But I don't remember doing anything bad today."
I hugged him quickly and told him that it wasn't his fault. Bad things happen in this world to people whether they are bad or not. "So somebody else was bad, and I'm being punished?"
"You're not being punished," I reassured him. Then my skills as a preacher kicked in. I thought of an illustration so... illustrative that I couldn't believe it. Then I had a moment of doubt. Experience tells me that whenever you share an off-the-cuff illustration it has a chance of failing utterly. Especially when speaking to kids. It is a risk I decided to take.
"When you are in a room full of people and one person toots, who smells it?"
His countenance changed from that of a wronged party to the face that all children give their dads when they are unsure of his motives. He was probably thinking, "This sounds like a dad-joke because it involves a bodily function, but that seems out of place in a theological conversation." The fate of my brilliant illustration hung upon the edge of a knife. I put on my best expression of wisdom and tender whimsy.
Quickly his face brightened to an even-handed smirk. The answer to my riddle hit home in his mind. Everyone smells it! Just being a part of this world makes us partakers of the stink-inducing fracture that has taken place between God and man. Ok, so I don't really know if he got it or not, but he stopped crying. It is possible that just thinking about tooting and smelling and stuff made him for a moment forget about the pain. Either way, I'm counting this as a daddy victory.
Next time perhaps I'll just refer him to The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis.