"Toby. It's short for the biblical name, Tobiah, which means 'God is good.'"
“Toby. It’s short for the biblical name, Tobiah, which means ‘God is good.'”

R12Two – 09 DEC 2014 – An excerpt from Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell

Throughout Scripture and throughout history, godly women and men have embraced the God of Job and Jeremiah. They held on to a God whom they didn’t always understand; a God who is immeasurably good, even though circumstances in life seem to suggest otherwise.

Years ago, I came across an article entitled “Two Minutes to Eternity” by Marshall Shelley, one of the editors of Christianity Today at the time.[1] In the article, Marshall tells the story of the miraculous birth of his son. When the child was in the womb, Marshall and his wife, Susan, found out that their child had an abnormal heart and would probably not survive the birth, if he even made it that far. And so the Shelleys wrestled with God. “This was a design flaw,” KMarshall writes, “and the Designer was responsible.” So they prayed. they prayed for a miracle, they prayed for survival, they [rayed that the God of all compassion would give the child the breath of life.

Then the day of the birth came, and the child was till alive. The child had survived the pregnancy! God is so good! As the child was born, Marshall looked upon his beautiful son: “he was a healthy pink, and we saw his chest rise and fall. The breath of life. Thank you, God.”

And then the child died. Two minutes later, their son turned from pink to blue , and he died. The miracle of birth was followed by the mystery of death. And as far as the Shelleys were concerned, the Designer was responsible. When the nurse asked the Shelleys if they had a name for the child, Susan responded: “Toby. It’s short for the biblical name, Tobiah, which means ‘God is good.'”

God is good.

God is good? How could they say that? How could they believe such an unbelievable attribute of God, when everything in that moment seemed to prove the opposite? Because the Shelleys believed that God is good not only when He makes sense to us, but even when He doesn’t. God is good, because God id God. Goodness is inherent in who He is. And the Shelleys believed this. “The name was what we believed, not what we felt,” Marshall writes. “It was what we wanted to feel again someday.”

And so it is with many things about God that don’t seem to add up.

And so it must be with hell.

As I have said all along, I don’t feel like believing in hell. And yet I do. Maybe someday I will stand in complete agreement with Him, but for now I attribute the discrepancy to an underdeveloped sense of justice on my part. God is perfect. And I joyfully submit to a God whose ways are much, much higher than mine.

1 – Marshall Shelley, “Two Minutes to Eternity,” Christianity Today 38 (1994): 25-27.