We recently held an evangelistic night at church with a talk on ‘Is it reasonable to believe in God when there is so much pain and suffering in the world?’ The programme was very straightforward, introduction, testimony, talk, song, Q&A, supper. And because we were all focussed in one direction, the discussion over supper was all on the same topic. It is something we all discuss, whether Christian or not. Suffering bothers us.
In case you’re wondering, the basic theological answer to the question is ‘sin’. We are all sinners, and the world is full of sinners. What we experience now is the result of sin, ours and other peoples’. Living in this world means experiencing pain and suffering, and seeing it all around us. It saddens Christians and makes us cry out to God, but it doesn’t surprise us. But we can endure it now by knowing ‘why’, but by knowing ‘who’. We know the One who suffered like we do, who was killed unjustly in our place, and who rose again to defeat sin forever. And we trust that God controls all things for a reason, and hold to the hope of a perfect future to come.
But this blog entry is not just to summarize the talk.
I found I had the same things come up in conversation afterwards. Part of the reason we are so upset when bad things happen to us or we see the horror that is the daily news is that we have unrealistic expectations from life. We expect life to go smoothly for us, and are surprised when it does not. We call out for justice when we are the ones who seem to be suffering unjustly.
But the logic cuts both ways. If we accept that sin is real, and that all suffering is due to sin, and we are completely fallen and incapable of reaching out to God, we can look from another perspective. We can ask, “Why is it that I have so many good things in life if I am so bad? How come so much goes right, and I am happy so often, and I have some money and family connections and health?” See, this is a reasonable thing to ask.
What is the answer? Well, it is grace. We don’t deserve anything from God at all. All we have is a gift from God, whether spiritual or physical. So as we look at our lives we need to be incredibly grateful for his grace every day. We don’t deserve the good things but our God is so abundantly gracious.
We can cope with suffering knowing God is just and will fix it. We can cope with life knowing that God is gracious and has fixed us and our future simply by his love. How incredible!