The logic of why we suffer

  • by Karen Watkins

War is expected to be traumatic. Soldiers may be injured, see their friends injured or killed or perhaps discover that the “enemy” in an engagement was actually an innocent civilian.

War can also have completely unexpected traumas: hearing that your friend committed suicide just days before going home because his wife had left him, or being attacked by your supposed ally, or a female soldier being raped. The tragic events we see on the news or experience first-hand can be mind-numbing and soul-destroying.

Whether we come with faith in God or not, the questions arise in our hearts: “Where was God in all this? Does God even exist?” Without reasonable answers, doubt and anger set in.

Where is God in all this? Why is He allowing evil to continue?

What kind of reasonable answers can be given which will apply balm to breaking hearts? Reasonable answers can’t heal broken hearts, however they can help restore the foundations from which we all find hope. Take some time now to consider these points.

Philosopher J.L. Mackie makes this case against God: “If a good and powerful God exists, he would not allow pointless evil, but because there is much unjustifiable, pointless evil in the world, the traditional good and powerful God could not exist.”

Tim Keller, in his book “The Reason for God” makes the point that Mackie is assuming all evil is pointless. “Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen, doesn’t mean there can’t be one.”

It is not that we couldn’t know what the reasons are, but that there might be good reasons why we wouldn’t know. We, with our human limitations, are not in a good position to assess with confidence what possible good purpose could be accomplished via the evil we see around us.

This logic may appear to you that we are ducking the problem, but consider Joseph’s story in Genesis 37-50. His brothers sold him into slavery. He was falsely accused, thrown into prison and forgotten by a man whose life he saved.

Yet God positioned him at the right time and place to save his family from famine. He told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). And with an even longer view, we know that God’s great plan was to be implemented through a future descendant of Joseph’s brother, Judah… Jesus, the Christ.

In fact, the best example of God having a reason for allowing evil is Jesus Himself. Although Jesus had done nothing to deserve death, the Jewish leaders meant evil against Him. As a result He was flogged, beaten and crucified, a criminal’s death.

But without His death, we would have no hope at all. In his first sermon, the Apostle Peter said, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” He went on to declare, “But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24). The ultimate good came out of the ultimate evil.

How is this supposed to be a comfort to me?

God does have reasons for what He does and what He allows although we may only rarely learn what those reasons are. But really, this is only a comfort to those who know that God is good and trustworthy.

For example, if you are convinced that your parent loves you and wants only the best for you, you may have found it easier to accept the treatment you received at the hands of your local dentist. However if you had no reason to believe your parent had the best in mind for you, then that appointment with the dentist could have been a terrifying experience.

So the question comes back. Is God truly good, loving and trustworthy?

The answer to that is found in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, and it is “Yes!” But the clearest proof again is Jesus. God is not standing back, coldly orchestrating our lives, putting in inexplicably evil events here and there in order to accomplish some other worldly plan. No! He is not far away, but He is present here with us.

God became a man to walk with us, cry with us, and suffer with us. Ultimately He came in order to die for us.

He faced evil on the cross beyond anything we can imagine. Not just the evil of the torture of the execution itself. Jesus came from a fellowship of love with the Father and the Holy Spirit which extended from before time. He was totally sinless, even after 33 years of walking on this earth. But on the cross, He became sin for us.

He took on the sin of all people from the beginning to the end… all the liars and cheats. All the betrayers and rapists. The murderers. The haters. The abusers and users. The proud, arrogant and hateful. The deceivers and the thieves.

The crushing weight of sin that has twisted and darkened the beautiful world He created separated Him from that eternal fellowship with the Father and the Spirit. His cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” is a wrenching cry of despair beyond anything we can dare guess.

But the miracle is that God raised Him from the dead! By His death, He satisfied the judgment against us, a judgment we in fact deserve! The scars of His torture remain as evidence and a reminder of His astonishing love for us.

By His resurrection, He has provided life and restored our lost relationship with the Father. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

But it wasn’t supposed to be this way!

No, you’re right. It wasn’t. We all, by our sin, destroyed God’s perfect design for the world and for mankind. His design did not include death! But He died for us so that we could live today in hope. We can have the confident hope of life, without sin, forever, with Him in the perfect New Heaven and New Earth to come.

The evil and suffering we have all seen is horrifying and heartrending, but it does not need to be soul-destroying because we can hope in the One who is worthy of our trust in spite of all our eyes see, our ears hear and our senses feel.

He is offering you a gift of forgiveness, freedom, hope and life. He is absolutely trustworthy to keep His promises to you. Will you trust Him to accomplish justice and right regarding the evil you can see? Will you accept, with faith in what you cannot see, the gift that He is offering you?

Where was God when…? He was with you, His sleeves rolled up, His face blasted by sand and wind. He never left you. Will you choose to trust Him?

Learn more about knowing God.

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