Ask any Christian what the most common objection to their faith or God from the outside is, and I would be willing to bet one of the top objections would be: “If God is so good and loving, why does He allow suffering and evil in the world?” This question is probably one of the hardest ones to answer. I will not insult anyone by saying that I have a set of simplistic answers to deal with any form of suffering. For me to write about this, I have to appeal much to the love of God and the mind of God, which I have experienced only a sliver of His infinite love and wisdom. I hope that by my admitting my shortcomings at the beginning, I have not already shut some of your minds to what I have to say.
So to start, we should break down the suffering that people deal with. I would say that there are two types of suffering: one caused by people inflicting suffering on others, which is called moral evil, and the suffering inflicted on people by natural events, such as a volcanic eruption or an earthquake. I will call this natural evil. Much of the time when people speak of suffering, however, they will intertwine the two into the same question. If you want a biblical case where both natural and moral evil befell a person, look at the book of Job. God allowed Satan to cause multiple evils to befall Job so that Job might curse God and prove Satan’s statement that there were no righteous men on earth. Throughout all of the disasters and loss of wealth and wellness of body, Job still praised God.
So maybe we want something a little closer to home, the 9/11 terror attack for instance, or someone robs you in the parking lot of a grocery store, or maybe you are just at your whit’s end with the people around you and don’t know what to do. Suffering is all around you and it is an integral part of being human. The New Atheists like to point to all of the suffering in the world, especially the suffering caused by religious persons, and use this as a point to prove that there is no God. I would like to take a minute here and respond to this objection. I notice that only those who were not directly affected by a tragic event are those saying that it is proof that God does not exist. My father was supposed to die in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He had a business meeting there, but the meeting was moved back a couple of days so my father was getting ready to leave when the attack happened. Coincidence or divine intervention? I would argue for the latter, since my father came back to God and is now a pastor. During the anniversary event last year, there were those who lost loved ones and spoke of them on national television. The people speaking did not speak of their loved ones like they would never see them again; instead they spoke like they had moved on and were in the presence of the God they believed in. The victims spoke of the comfort God had given them in one of their darkest hours, learning that their husbands, wives, sons, and neighbors, would not be coming home. So what about the evil done on that day or any other day where blood was spilled? I cannot speak for any other faith, but for the abortion clinic bombings here in America or any other act of violence committed in the name of Jesus Christ, I am personally ashamed of it.
So where is God in the midst of suffering? Why doesn’t he just stop it or why did he make the possibility for it in the first place? Theologically, some suffering comes as the form of sin, either your sin or your suffer because of sin committed by others. So why sin in the first place? When God made man, he wanted a being that would freely choose Him, or choose to be good. If this is true, then we had as much capacity to do good as to do evil. What about physical pain? Not all pain is bad, because if your arm suddenly starts hurting, you know that something is wrong and you must get away from whatever is causing you that pain. But if you repeatedly expose yourself to that same pain, you will get used to it. I would compare that to sin. When you first do a certain kind of evil, you probably have some sort of instinct telling you that what you are doing is wrong, be it your conscience or the Holy Spirit. Eventually you do it enough and quiet those thoughts in your head. If you consistently sin, I fully believe God gets to a point that he will allow consequences of that sin to come upon you. This is not because God has given up on you, but He is going to use the consequences of that sin to drive you back to God. This is described perfectly in the Bible in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).
I would like to ask the atheists a few questions about their own worldview on this matter. If you are a naturalist, a believe that we are machines constructed of atoms on this earth and are led by the programming of our DNA, what basis have you to decide what is right and wrong? If what Richard Dawkins said is true, “the universe is exactly what we think it to be, that at the very bottom level of existence, there is no good, no evil, and we are just dancing to the music of our own DNA,” what authority are you appealing to when you tell others what is right and wrong? Dawkins made this statement in his book, The God Delusion, but then goes on to state his outrage at the evil done by religious persons. A little hypocritical, don’t you agree? My next question, where is justice in your worldview? Whenever injustice occurs, in America at least, thousands of people of varying worldviews take to the streets calling for justice. What about those who suffered innocently and died without receiving their justice? What about the atheistic regimes of Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, and Mao Zedong? If there is no ultimate justice, then Hitler got away from the 6 million Jews that he killed and the countless others that died to stop his regime when he committed suicide.If there is no justice, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot will have gotten away with the slaughter of their own countrymen for simply disagreeing with their leaders or because these "leaders" thought that they needed to be eradicated just because of what these people were or believed.
I would contend that if you eliminate God, you are not eliminating a problem from the earth, but you are eliminating a solution. I believe that God has not stayed away from the problem of suffering, but has become very much involved in it. God came down to earth, fully man, fully divine, and took on the sufferings of this earth, and suffered a most gruesome death, and rose three days later. He did this to bridge the gap and offer a way to end our suffering when our time here is over. We will suffer on this earth, Jesus did not cringe from that fact, but He has offered us eternal peace with Him in Heaven, if we will only accept Him, believe in what He did for us, and repent of our sins. Have a good rest of your week and may God bless you in your endeavors.
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