A Loving God in a Suffering World
As the church, we have to be able to effectively answer the question: How can there be a loving God in the midst of so much suffering? Pollster and author George Barna tells us that it is the number one asked question by seekers and skeptics alike.
In this post, I want to answer some questions that will help us all answer this important question. In order to answer it, we have to be a bit philosophical. We definitely have to be theological, and we have to have a passion to communicate truth to hurting people. Here goes:
Q: Where did knowledge of right and good come from?
A: It came from a loving God who created the Garden of Eden’s beauty and placed Adam and Eve into it to enjoy it. Then, He said, “It is good.” A beautiful and peaceful Heaven on earth was God’s idea and that idea is instilled into every person. That’s why everything that doesn’t seem “right” bothers us. We know these awful things aren’t supposed to happen because they weren’t God’s original intention when He created the Garden.
Q: What happened?
A: . Mankind chose rebellion. Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in fallen mankind and a cursed world. Fallen mankind is this sinful, rebellious nature that inflicts evil and suffering on itself. A cursed world is floods, droughts, tornadoes, earthquakes, famines and all other “natural” disasters. They aren’t natural, they are the result of man’s choice.
Q: Why did God give man choice?
A: This is God’s greatest gift to mankind. We get to choose right, wrong, good and bad, love and hate. Here’s the point: We are not perfectly programmed, mechanical robots that flawlessly perform. God gave us choice and because He gave us choice, we get to feel joy, satisfaction, the thrill of doing what’s right and we also get to experience genuine love. BUT, we can also choose sin and evil. When we do, we create and experience a painful path of suffering. It’s so important to understand this— God chose to give us choice because genuine love is worth the risk of evil and suffering.
Q: Why doesn’t God just wipe out evil doers?
A: Because we’d all be wiped out and nobody would be left. Romans 3:10 tells us, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.'” If we say, “God, wipe out all the evil people,” it shows that we don’t know what His true nature is because God is not interested in wiping people out; God is interested in cleaning people up. 2 Peter 3:9 shows this fact to us. It says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God doesn’t want to wipe people out, He’s patiently waiting that people will come to repentance.
Q: Why does God allow prolonged periods of suffering?
A: God is not only loving and patient, He is omniscient and all-knowing. God knows the past, present and future and He’s always working things for His glory. We must trust that promise because God looks at things from an eternal perspective. We are locked into our own circumstances, God is working on a far greater plan.
Q: Do you mean we have to trust God in the midst of our suffering?
A: Yes, we need to trust Him then more than any other time! We have to trust Him, that He is working things out for His glory and that He is all-knowing and He knows past, present, and future and somehow He is going to clean this up and work it out. We have to trust that He is working out things to create a greater good even though it is taking a long time. We have to trust that God is up to something. We MUST have that deeply planted in our hearts.
Friends the goal of the Christian life isn’t comfort and ease—it’s being conformed to the image of Christ. It’s what Paul writes in Romans 8:29 and Philippians 3:10.
Q: Can God stop some of the evil and suffering?
A: I am sure He does and often. We have no idea what DOESN’T come our way. The question is, where does God draw the line? Is one heinous act OK, but two is too many? The fact is it’s all too much. It’s all too painful, but in this fallen, free-will world pain and suffering are going to happen because of man’s choices.
Q: What can I do if I’m suffering?
A: . There’s nothing heady and wonderful to write that is going to knock your socks off and make your or others pain go away. However, I do know what will work for all of us: Trust Jesus and don’t stop worshiping Him. If you want to be healed? If you want to be free? ? Trust Jesus and don’t stop worshiping Him.
The answer to pain and suffering is not some neatly packaged, theological system. The answer to suffering is the person of Jesus Christ—who has suffered more than any of us and is therefore able to help us in our hour of need and give us the grace that we need to endure faithfully in such a way that it gives God glory and is a testimony to the world. Jesus is the solution to suffering.