Sense in Suffering

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Over the years, probably the most common objection to the existence of God I’ve heard is the existence of evil and suffering. The question is this: “Why, if God is omnipotent and good, doesn’t he dispense with evil?” Since he surely would, he must not exist. (He could also not be omnipotent, not be good, or be neither, but the conversation rarely goes there.) Maybe you have been asked the same question. Let me offer three brief thoughts that I hope will provide clarity.

  1. Sin ushered in suffering
  2. God creates purpose in suffering
  3. The alternative is depressing

First, pain and suffering weren’t always here. As we read in Genesis 1-3, in the beginning everything was “very good”! Only when the first humans disobeyed their creator, because they followed their own desires, things turned bad. Murder followed, as did other kinds of evil. And since then, people have done what they want, often ending in evil. We think we live in our own kingdoms. We are the rulers, and as long as everyone else obeys the laws of our kingdoms, things work. But when people rebel, there is conflict. I see it in my children, I see it in adults, I see it in myself. The consequences with my kids are very small; but adults, especially those with earthly power, may cause wars. All this because we didn’t obey God, because we thought we knew better.

Second, God has a purpose for our suffering. Pain still hurts, but in the end it will all work out for good, but only for God’s people, Christians today. Ask any Christian and he will agree with this (I speak from experience), but the Bible also has examples:

  • Joseph and his brothers, in Genesis 50:20: “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.” Joseph’s suffering resulted in a whole nation being saved from famine!

  • The cross itself! Acts 2:23-24: “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” It was pure evil to kill the only person who was ever truly innocent. And he suffered greatly. But not only was it for good, it was also planned! Father and Son together wanted it to be this way, and through his suffering we are now free, healed, and have peace with God (Isaiah 53:5)! This is the Gospel, the Good News!

  • All Christians. Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God turns every evil to good for his people.

Third, the alternative is depressing. In a worldview without God, our suffering is senseless. All suffering is senseless. There is no meaning, no rescue, no justice. And not just in suffering, but all of life. We could try to give sense and meaning to our lives, but in the end we are doomed to fail. We will be forgotten in a few generations. Murderers, rapists, and child abusers are never caught and get away with their wickedness. That’s the world without God. No wonder depression is so widespread.

But reality is different: Perfect justice exists! No evil act goes unpunished! In the end, my suffering has purpose, my life meaning. I will never be forgotten, because my name is written in the Book of Life! This is all good news for the Christian. For the unbeliever, it is bad news. Because no evil deed goes unpunished. Perfect justice means that the smallest injustice will be punished. Lies, anger, jealousy, greed, adultery, hate; every wrong deed or thought (in God’s eyes).

If that is you, you are guilty. And, unlike me, you currently have no savior to take your place. You stand condemned and alone. But you are not without hope! I plead with you, please repent, turn away from your sins and to Jesus, the only Savior! You can and must trust him, or you will have to pay for your own sins. I warn you in love, as a fellow guilty sinner who has found the Savior. Please repent!