Could there be a more difficult question for those who believe in an all-powerful yet loving God? Why do babies die, the innocent suffer and injustice reigns unchecked? And while we're at it, what is up with all the natural disasters? As if we don't create enough problems on our own, why all the floods, fires, earthquakes and volcanoes erupting? It seems like the earth is trying to squish us like a blood-sucking mosquito. Where is the loving Creator God in all this – how can this be his plan?
Troubling questions indeed for those of us who call God our loving Heavenly Father and the Supreme Ruler of the universe. No wonder many atheists and agnostics scorn Christianity. They reason that even if there were a God who would want to acknowledge let alone worship such a being?
So the problem of evil seems to raise its ugly head in every debate and leaves most Christians feeling like they’re stuck in an unanswerable paradox. Either believe God loves us but sometimes can't keep really bad things from happening to us. (not Omnipotent) Or believe that God is in fully in control but not always very kind to those he has created. (in other words not good)
I don’t think I can completely resolve this debate with these few words. Nor do I think I have the intellectual capacity to answer a question that has been argued for as long as man has existed. (Read the Book of Job) I also believe I don’t know everything about everything. (Though don’t tell that to my children) If I did then I’d be God and that’s not me. (Please don’t tell that to my dog, I think I’ve got him fooled)
But lately something has occurred to me that helps me respond to all the pain and suffering I see around me.
And here it is …
Really bad stuff happens because the world is broken … and we know it is broken because really bad stuff happens.
“What?” You say, “how is that the least bit comforting?”
This is how my simple mind works. If I were to feel a sharp pain shooting up my leg I would immediately assume that something was wrong and all my attention would be focused on resolving it. I would then come to realize that my toe had just collided with the coffee table and therefore the pain would be reasonable and my throbbing toe is a warning sign that I have done damage to my foot. The pain reveals the damage I have done to my foot and impedes true purpose of my foot. When I walk with a broken toe it is unnatural and terribly frustrating. So it is with all the terrible stuff that happens around us. If suffering were natural we would have no problem with it but because it would be the way things are, as natural as walking without a limp.
Our awareness of the pain and suffering we experience is shouting to us that we were meant for something far different. Now I’m not going to get into why pain is the preferred course of action God uses to reveal this truth but there are good reasons to trust in both his sovereignty and his goodness. We need to stop and recognize that the pain is one enormous sign pointing to the reality that this is not our ultimate home and that we are destined to live in a place free from suffering and death.
You may ask; “What kind of answer is that? How does that help when I’m in the midst of pain?”
To that I say, it brings comfort, hope, perspective and revelation. When facing a particularly difficult event.
Comfort: Knowing that my suffering is understood and shared by my Creator. Look at the life of Jesus. God didn’t sit up in heaven and offer platitudes and advise. He participated in our suffering by becoming a man and experiencing the pain that we experience. (Philippians 2)
Hope: That our suffering is not forever and that there is something better ahead. When we realize that our true citizenship is not here but in a place where there will be no suffering, no evil and no death we can find the courage to persevere through whatever comes. (Romans 8:18)
Perspective: Seeing what I am going through in light of the big picture and that it is not everything. The hardest thing about going through difficult times is not knowing why. We are given a view into the eternal purposes of God when he says that he not only has a better place for us but he is working in us to become better people. God’s purposes are far greater than providing us a comfortable existence – his plans are for us to become fully and completely glorious. That means a transformation of our character not just our circumstances. (James 1:2-4)
Revelation: When we come to realize that we are missing something - when we finally come to the place where we question our existence and wonder why death has such a sting. We reach out for answers that only God can provide. Jesus said, "seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened" Matthew 7:7 Pain and suffering make us seek - it drives us to a place of honest questioning and ultimately into the waiting nail-pierced hands of Jesus.
I know this is pretty heavy and if you read this whole blog then you’re seeking truth and honest answers.
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