How can a good God allow so much suffering?
Don’t check your brain at the door (Part 5 of 7)
May 28, 2017 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
”Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Jesus, in John 16:33
When suffering becomes personal
How do “trials and sorrows” fit with a God who is said to love us more than we could comprehend? Couldn’t he just bring an end to all of that?
We’ve seen people turn away from God in the face of suffering.
Others find God during times of crisis and affliction. Adversity moves them toward God rather than away from him. For those who believe the teaching of Jesus, our troubles and trials here can awaken us to a new kind of relationship with him, and cause us to hunger for something more.
God is not the author of suffering and evil
People ask, “Why didn’t God simply create a world where tragedy and suffering didn’t exist?” The answer is: He did! Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
So how did suffering begin? In order for us to experience love, God gave us free will. Unfortunately, we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from Him.
Two kinds of evil resulted:
Moral evil: pain and suffering that come because we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, and abusive. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Much of the world’s suffering results from our sinful actions or inaction.
Natural evil: earthquakes, tornadoes & hurricanes are the indirect result of sin being allowed into the world. Nature began to revolt. Genetic breakdown and disease began. Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (see also Genesis 3:17-19).
God feels—and even enters—our suffering
Each major religion has its own slant on the question of suffering.
Islam counsels submission to the will of Allah.
Hinduism teaches that the suffering we endure is deserved, the result of sins committed in a previous life.
Buddhism admits, "Life is suffering," counseling us to embrace it.
In Christianity, God has chosen to respond to our predicament not by waving a magic wand to make evil and suffering disappear, but by joining us and absorbing it in his very person.
Christians never need to be ashamed that we continue to believe in God even in the face of extreme suffering. The Christian God uniquely participates in human suffering (Hebrews 4:15). In Jesus’ resurrection we discover that God is overcoming and undoing evil and suffering.
Suffering isn’t good, but God can use it to produce good
If God is not in control of history, then suffering is not part of any plan, making it random and senseless. But God has demonstrated in history, over and over, that he can turn evil into good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).
After the 1963 church bombing that killed 3 girls, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "God still has a way of wringing good out of evil."
“Criticizing God for not fixing things right now is like reading half a novel and criticizing the author for not resolving the plot.” Peter Kreeft
Heaven will put suffering in perspective for Jesus’ followers
The final answer to the question of suffering hinges on God's pledge of future restoration. Jesus promised, "I am going to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-3) We who have heard the sound of laughter from the other side of death know how the story ends: "God will wipe away 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.” (Revelation 21:4-5)
Holy Week offers us a template to put our suffering in perspective.
Good Friday: Jesus absorbed the worst of what Earth has to offer, a convergence of evil and death in an event of profound injustice.
Easter Sunday: a sure and certain sign that nothing can withstand the healing force of a powerful and loving God. He wins in the end!
Holy Saturday: where we live today, in a world of suffering…while awaiting the fulfillment of Jesus’ promises to make all things new. Key question: Will I trust him, no matter what comes my way?
For a number of the points above, gratitude is expressed to Lee Strobel (Case for Faith, ch. 1) and
Tim Keller (Reason for God, ch. 2); both are a great follow-up if you would like to dig deeper on today’s topic. Also, Keller’s Walking with God through Pain & Suffering, and Jim Dobson’s When God Doesn’t Make Sense.
You can watch today’s message—and previous ones—at gracecma.org (media)