Why Do Good People Suffer?
A person writes, “How many tears have I shed? Millions. How many tears does God need from me? Even though I prayed and believed for years, my parents divorced. Even though I prayed and believed for healthy children, my son is autistic. Even though I prayed for my family, my mother died a tragic death. It seems to me that the very things I ask God for, the opposite happens. I have gone from one continuous heartache to another for my whole life! How is this ‘God’s Plan’ for me??” (KJ).
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
I want to say to this dear soul, you are not alone with these questions.
It’s not unusual for some to question God’s love and power after suffering. Earlier they had prayed for protection and provision but suffering came and supplies did not. To them, God did the opposite of what they had prayed and they questioned the love and power of God. They bordered on disbelief.
I too have seen lots of suffering, especially as a pastor.
My worship leader died of cancer, and his young wife had to raise her three kids alone.
My grandmother lost four sons before any were teenagers. Her husband, my grandfather, had polio and could not walk.
One of my best friends from college, who was in the ministry, died of a brain tumor. I still remember the day he called me to tell me and ask me to pray for him.
Parents we know lost a child due to a family member backing out of the driveway and accidentally running over their precious child.
A renowned Christian leader shared with me about his adult son leaving the faith and later drowning in a scuba diving accident.
An adult daughter lost her father to cancer, and weeks after his death learned that she had life-threatening cancer.
A wife lived over a decade with a husband who contracted a disease that left him mentally incapacitated and which demanded hour-by-hour care of him.
A Chinese believer told me of his physical torture for years in a prison camp.
Why did these people suffer so much?
That is the question. WHY?
Asking “Why?” is most appropriate. Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
For centuries, philosophers and theologians have struggled with this question: Why does evil and suffering come to good people who looked to God as their all-loving and all-powerful Heavenly Father?
There are four conclusions people make about God in regards to suffering:
1. God does not exist. If an all-loving and all-powerful God existed He would stop evil and suffering. Since evil and suffering have not been stopped, God cannot exist. No loving and powerful God would allow certain atrocities.
2. God is all-powerful but not all-loving. There is a God but He is only half of what we thought. He is there and has the power to stop evil and suffering but does not stop it because He does not really love us.
3. God is all-loving but not all-powerful. Again, God is only half of what we thought. He loves us but He has no power to stop evil and suffering. Though He cares, He lacks control. He appears Mighty but behind the curtain He is impotent. He is Nice but powerless.
4. God is all-loving and all-powerful. God is who we envision Him to be but evil and suffering are real. God cares and is Sovereign but wickedness and pain co-exist with Him. There is no contradiction or impossibility here. Think King of kings and Lord of lords nailed to a cross.
OUR EXAMPLE IS JESUS
To Jesus there was no incongruity between God the Father’s absolute benevolence and might and that of the existence of evil and suffering. Jesus on the Cross reveals that God the Father allows barbarity and agony while God the Father remains all-loving and all-powerful.
Jesus did not see a contradiction between the compassion and control of God and lawlessness and disease.
Many choose to reject the view of Jesus Christ. They find the incompatibility between God and evil impossible to comprehend. Because the co-existence of God and evil is inconceivable to them, and because they know evil is real, they conclude that an all-loving and all-powerful God is make-believe.
Anyone witnessing a genocide has to struggle with these issues. This is not an intellectual exercise but a matter of the heart and soul.
Certainly believers do not declare that God CAUSED the evil. But every believer must concede that God ALLOWED the evil.
The issue here is why an all loving and all powerful God ALLOWS evil and suffering to damage and destroy lives. There is no complete answer on earth. For this reason the Apostle Paul who did evil and suffered evil refers to this larger question as “the mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Some refer to it as the mystery of wickedness, sin, or the spirit of anarchy, and others call it the secret power of lawlessness.
LOVE, POWER, AND SUFFERING
The challenge to every one of us is this: “How do I trust the love and power of God in the face of evil and suffering?”
All of the people above that I mention chose to trust the goodness and sovereignty of God in spite of the evil and/or suffering. They did not conclude #1, #2, or #3. They landed on #4…God is all-loving AND all-powerful.
Why and how did they maintain their faith in a good and powerful God?
- They let their faith perspective determine their feelings. They did not let their feelings determine their faith perspective.
- They did not demand of God to prove His faithfulness to them by preventing and stopping all suffering. They demanded of themselves to prove their faithfulness to God in spite of their suffering.
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