"If God is such a good, loving God, then why does He allow suffering?"
Just look at
- a shameful and painful history of slavery;
- a long history of poor governmental leadership;
- poverty in the extreme;
- Destructive hurricanes;
- and now an earthquake.
The suffering in this little island nation is now beyond all comprehension. The earth shook, houses fell, hospitals collapsed, government buildings folded. What’s the count of the dead now - 200,000? Children orphaned. A man loses his wife and all four children. Limbs were amputated with a hacksaw sterilized with Vodka - it was the best they could do in a frantic attempt to save lives.
What kind of a God would allow such things? Unless, of course, He is incapable of stopping it.
When it comes to suffering,
There’s a lot of suffering around the world. We have our share here in
- A young person is shot on the streets of our city.
- Some deranged armed thug gone on a rampage goes into a school and shoots his classmates - remember
- A mother abandons her baby in a dumpster.
- Parents are convicted of locking their kids in a closet - for days.
- A kidnapper steals a young girl, locks her up in his back yard and rapes her repeatedly.
- Parents get awakened in the middle of the night with a reality worse than a nightmare - their child was just killed in an automobile accident.
- A spouse walks into the garage and finds her husband dead. Beside him is a suicide note.
Where was God in the midst of all this? Does He see it all? Does He care? Could He have done something to prevent it? Why didn’t He?
A friend of mine lost his 35 year old wife of a heart attack while nursing her baby. The two older children were in another room. He was in the kitchen when he heard a thud and the baby began wailing. His worst nightmare began. I tried to be pastoral - to say something wise, something fitting, something comforting:
“Yes, I know”, he bravely says, but with a mixture of confusion and an edge of frustration, he adds: “But He didn’t stop it either”.
Yeah! True! I have no response - just tears!
I feel empty.
No wise words from me!
“Why?” I ask. I get no response. The heavens are silent.
Atheism might come easily, but it’s too easy for me!
There is too much evidence for the existence of God. The world is too complex to have happened by chance. People are too complex. In speaking to an eye surgeon, I said, “Our eyes are so complex, I have to believe in God. It couldn’t have just happened randomly.” He said, “A single cell in the eye is so complex I have to believe in a supreme Designer.”
Besides the marvelous complexity and beauty of creation, I have another reason. Something spiritual happened to me. If you’re an unbeliever, I can’t explain it to you. I can’t fully describe it, but as a teenager I sincerely cried out to Christ. I asked Him to come into my life and to change me. He did. I experienced a peace and joy that has never left me. I’ve never doubted the presence of God in my life since.
I know this all sounds terribly subjective - like sampling a can of tuna fish and swearing it tastes like lobster. Sorry! I can only report what happened to me. But quite honestly, I’ve never been the same! So, I can no more doubt the existence of God than the existence of the ground I walk on.
So, I’m back with the question. If there is a God and if He is good, then why does He allow suffering?"
Is it Sin?
- If so, does that mean
- Since Hurricane Katrina destroyed the coast of
- Since I’m still happily married, does it mean that my friend who lost his 35 year-old wife is more sinful or less spiritual than I am? If you agree with that you don’t know me or him very well. I met Gary and his wife in church - at a mid-week prayer meeting!
Rabbi Kushner, in his thought-provoking book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, concludes there are some things God cannot do. If a loaded gun is aimed at you and someone pulls the trigger, God cannot jump in front of you and take the bullet, he argues. The Rabbi goes on to say that God really does care - that God weeps with those who weep. That’s comforting. Yet, I find myself wanting more.
I have no wise words of my own, amidst the reality of seemingly unfair suffering, but Scripture does address the issue. It has a lot to say. The Bible is no stranger to the agony we feel. Listen to these texts:
- Nehemiah 9:9 - God sees our suffering.
"You saw the suffering of our forefathers in
Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea.
- Isaiah 53:3 - Christ, Himself suffered.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not”.
- Romans 8:18 - Present suffering is like a mere blink compared to the joys of heaven.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.
- 2 Corinthians 1:5 - Christ comforts those who suffer.
“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows”.
- II Cor. 12 - God’s grace, in the midst of our suffering is enough.
“9... he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
- Rev. 21: 4 - Someday, God will wipe our tears away.
"He will wipe 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."
Therein lies my greatest hope - that God understands, loves, cares, and is with us even in the midst of our suffering. Then, someday soon, God will receive those in the faith to Himself. On that great day, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for those old things have all passed away."
In the midst of my tears, I sing:
“Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last”. - Katharine von Schlegel
Pastor Bill Huegel