I've been on a journey for many years now. It started with your typical, "How could God let this happen" kind of question. People that I admired and respected were preaching Calvinism. I had to consider it. At first, I found it scandalous: "How could God create all of these people for hell?" And then I was offended: "If God could do such a cruel thing, I'm not sure I'd want to follow such a God."
I never doubted His existence, but that was purely on a scientific basis. I was analytically examining my faith and the truth of God and all creation. I was 30 years old and stepping outside the safe cave of Sunday School answers, exploring the truth that God is not safe and simple.
I found peace in Romans 9:20, knowing that deep in my heart, I recognized God's authority and sought the truth. My faith was secure, my understanding was not.
I chewed on it, wrestled with it, but could not come to any peace about how much control we have over our choices. If Calvin was right, God created everyone and in His infinite mercy, chose to snatch back from the gates of hell a select few to experience eternity in Heaven with Him. But how can we call it merciful if that same God created everyone and chose to condemn a majority to experience eternity in Hell. Could He not prevent it? More frightening, is it how He planned it? But that last option went directly against scripture because His Word says that God desires all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4).
The huge obstacle I could not get around was the idea that so many people could go to hell without God's intervention. That's not merciful. I could not accept it. And then someone pointed out that God chose the Israelites and allowed many great nations to pursue their own false gods and thus spend eternity in hell. There was no arguing that it was so. True, some few did leave their false gods and believe in the God of the Israelites, but very few. It cannot be argued that these nations had a choice. How many people had even heard of the Israelites, let alone their God?
I was stunned to realize it, but I had to come to terms with the fact that there are people who never had a choice between heaven and hell. But if God knew this was going to happen, WHY did He ever plant that tree in the garden? WHY did He not prevent Adam and Even from partaking? The next logical step, according to Calvinism, is to accept that since God chose for those people to go to hell; He orchestrated it from the beginning.
But what if He didn't? Not to say that He didn't know it was an option, but what if free will was the option? What if He desired Adam and Eve to avoid the fruit, but desired them to have the choice to love? The choice to obey? This would mean we have a choice in everything. God knows the possible outcomes and urges us to choose well, but the choice is ours.
For me, there was a strong appeal to embrace Calvinism. I could imagine the reassurance in recognizing that my previous choices as not my own. There would be no anxiety over whether or not I'd made wrong choices for my life. There would be a comfort in the humility of knowing that God had chosen me, undeserving as I am.
To believe that I have choices would be a painful gift. Each choice I make could be the one God desires for me or it could take me on a path that goes against His plan. There is a huge responsibility there. It would demand an active relationship with the God Who knows best for me. It would require active prayer and study of God's Word so that I could endure and do the will of God (Hebrews 10:36)
To give us this choice would be painful for a God Who loves His children. But I cannot logically perceive any other design fitting with love. The moment I said it out loud, it clicked into place. It resonated deep in my soul, the relief of finding the key that fit the lock. I had an answer to the journey I embarked on many years before. And the answer laid in the childlike faith of my Sunday School answers. I had come full circle. But this time, the answer is not in my rote repetition of what I was taught to believe, but in the knowledge of a question asked and answered.
Answered, but not fully comprehended. While I am truly relieved to know that God requires a childlike faith and that such a faith does not require a lack of logic or intelligence, I am still very much aware that my mind cannot grasp the fullness of God. But if I could, He wouldn't be a very big God, now would He?