[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]This week we conclude our You Asked For It series, which looks at the top questions asked by people outside the church. By far, one of the most-asked questions we’ve heard from people—both in and outside of the church— is, “How could a good God allow evil and suffering?”
This question isn’t exclusive to Christianity; every major worldview has to struggle with it. Here are a few of the more prevalent thoughts regarding the existence of evil and struggle:
1. Buddhism: Evil and struggle don’t really exist. They are illusions that can be dealt with through a state of higher consciousness.
2. Hinduism: The reason someone struggles is because of karma. They are paying the price for something they did in a previous life.
3. Atheism: The existence of great evil in the world proves that a good God can’t exist.
These common worldviews have some problems. First, there are plenty of acts and events that would be difficult not to consider evil, such as oppression, slavery, and murder. Yet, to cite these as proof that a good God doesn’t exist is to ignore the fact that labeling certain acts as evil points to a universal standard of justice—an ultimate standard given by God. Finally, when struggles are viewed as karma, it leads to a lack of passion for justice or motivation to help when others are suffering.
So what does Christianity have to say about evil and suffering in the world?
1. Evil and suffering are to be expected. (1 Peter 4.12–13)
In Genesis 3, sin entered the human story when Adam and Eve looked to find happiness apart from God. Only one chapter later we read about the very first murder in human history. Christians realize that we live in a sin-scarred world and, as a result, injustice and suffering are going to exist.
2. God does some of His most important work in us through pain and suffering. (2 Corinthians 4.11, 16–18)
Throughout our lives, we encounter times where we must choose to suffer for the short term in order to accomplish something of significance. This might be setting aside our money and time in order to pursue higher education. Or we may choose the pain of training in order to excel in a sport or physical challenge. This is also true of spiritual growth. However, only God knows when and what will best grow us spiritually. So we must trust Him to bring the necessary pain and suffering into our lives in order to reach the potential that only He knows we are capable of.
3. Pain and suffering can help us fulfill our ultimate life’s purpose of bringing glory to God. (John 9.1–3)
So much of what we know about the character of God is revealed in suffering. We know God as the Healer because of our sickness, Restorer because of our brokenness, Reconciler because of division, Forgiver because of sin, and Rebuilder because of destruction. Without suffering and pain, how would we understand the love of God?
4. Strength and comfort come from knowing that God understands our suffering. (Matthew 27.45–46)
God has an intimate understanding of our suffering because He was willing to suffer on our behalf. There is no greater suffering that we can experience than that which Jesus suffered on the cross when God turned away from Him. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existed in community for eternity, yet Jesus experienced the ultimate pain of separation from the Father so that we would never need to ever experience that separation.
5. Christians have hope through the suffering. (Matthew 19.28,30)
God never wastes our suffering. Every pain, trial, and loss will someday be redeemed in Christ. We have hope that what brings great grief in this life will bring great glory in the next.
- What worldviews have you encountered regarding the existence of evil, injustice, and suffering in the world?
- How can knowing that we will experience suffering help you endure when it comes?
- How has God grown you through suffering?
- What significant accomplishments have you achieved in your life? Did they come without sacrifice or suffering?
- What do you know about God that could only have been revealed in the context of your suffering?