Saturday, October 3, 2015

Question 3: Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering

Did you know there is a Bible approach to suffering and pain?
You can trust an All-knowing, Loving, Powerful God!

We’ve all heard of the Problem of Evil and Suffering. It boils down to this: 
If God is All-knowing, All-powerful and Good why does He allow Evil and Suffering in the world? Something about this doesn’t make sense. And while it may just be an academic question to debate in a philosophy class, when YOU are hurting and suffering it takes on a whole different flavor. Unless, you can find some sort of answer to the question!
Here’s the argument: 
If I am hurting, maybe God can’t do anything about it! But we remember, God is all powerful, Nothing is too hard for the Lord! 
Well maybe he doesn’t Know – That could explain it! But the Bible says God knows everything! Maybe – we hate to even think it – God isn’t really good, or doesn’t love me. But we remember the Bible says God Is love! Maybe He loves some more than me but He’s love personified! So He must love me! 
For some the only way to reconcile this is: there is no god!
Many have gone down that path, winding up at that conclusion. Some I have known and love. It's painful to watch others in pain!
But: There’s a better answer than that? Suppose with me for a minute, there IS a good, powerful God. How do we answer the question about WHY there is evil and pain? 
There are lots of ways to suffer, right? It’s not all physical.
WHAT IS SUFFERING? How’s this? Suffering is experiencing some kind of pain that we consider to be not normal. Our bodies shouldn't hurt! Surely that’s not what God intended! How about the pain of loss? We think, It is not right that someone I love is gone. This hurts and I am suffering. How about the pain of rejection? Is it normal that everyone we love should love us back? How about abuse and subterfuge and criticism? How about poverty, illness and our own destructive behaviors?
(Do you see a little problem with how we define pain and suffering sometimes?)
  Then there is natural pain and moral pain
Natural pain is when we get sick or struck by lightning or slip and fall on an icy side-walk. 
Moral pain is when someone attacks us, inflicts undeserved pain upon us. 
But I can complicate that even more! What if your pain was caused by you? What if you drink your way to cirrhosis of the liver? What if you were running on the ice you slipped on? What I am saying is, sometimes there IS an answer to the Question “Why am I Suffering?” It could be “I did this to myself.” OR, “That person did this to me.” Or “I guess I shouldn’t have been running on the ice – in slick shoes – for no reason.”
     But if we filter out those times when we can answer the “why,” there are still times we don’t know Why we suffer! And if there is a Good, Omnipotent, Omniscient God, Why doesn’t He stop this?
  Defending God: 
There is a fancy word: Theodicy. It comes from two words for God and justice or trial. Theodicy is the defense of God’s Justice in light of evil and pain.
 Now there are religions where this isn’t as big an issue. Some religions explain it as good spirits and evil spirits, and if we keep the good spirits happy they’ll take care of us. When something bad happens that means you did something wrong! Come to think of it, many Christians live that way too
Now this can get complicated real fast but here are a couple ideas to guide your thinking:
First, Did God make everything good at creation? Yes! (Gen 1:31) God made the best world! And in that world he gave men choices. And man chose poorly! From then on, humanity has been under a curse. We have wicked hearts. We rebel against God. The earth is under God’s curse so we have to work the ground for food. Even the animals are at odds with us! SO -  I said all that to say, Evil came into the World as a Result of the Fall or Sin of Adam!
Second, Life is not a circle, it’s a line. Ever heard “what goes around comes around”? It can sure seem that way? But that’s not a biblical view. 
 Imagine you’re on a merry-go-round or Carousel. You’re on you horsey going up and down, round and round and you see someone nearby and as you go by you reach out and slap them upside the head! Now this is the Merry-go-round of life, so while that person is recovering you’re going around and you die and are reincarnated as someone else. So now you are approaching the guy your former self hit. But there you are, not knowing what you did in the previous life, minding your own business, up and down on your horsey when some yahoo punches you right in the nose! And you cry out, “Why does God all such pain and suffering?”
That’s NOT how it works! There is no reincarnation and there is no merry-go-round, and there is no endless karma where what goes around comes around. Yes, the Bible says we reap what we sow! But sin, evil and pain have a beginning and an end
It’s a Line, not a circle! God made all things good, and the day is coming when he will restore His people to perfect Goodness! Better than Adam and Eve enjoyed at the first! “God [Himself] shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
Thirdly, there is one other idea very important to this whole idea of defending God’s justice.
But before I do I want to clarify the Questions we have been adressing.. I’ve been addressing two questions that are really different. One Question is “Why is there Pain and suffering in the World.” And the other question is “Why Am I hurting and suffering? What did I do? And Why isn’t God fixing it?”
This Third idea includes the idea that God understands that suffering is very important to us. The Bible is filled with words of anguish. There’s a whole book of "Lamentations" and the Book of Job. And the Book of Psalms shares in our grief! 
Psa 6:6 I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. 
13:1-3 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? 
42:3 My tears have been my food day and night, people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?
     There’s a story of a man who lost his son. Two men came to visit. The first man said God would give him strength, that in God’s wisdom there is a reason for this, and that he should cry out to God. The second man didn’t say a thing. He mourned with him, listened to him a lot, cried with him and prayed with him. The man who lost the sons knew that both men cared about him and had good intentions. But he couldn’t wait for the first man to leave, and he hated to see the second man go.
I have been that first man at times. Trying to help, I didn’t always help. 
But I can tell you that God will be that 2nd man. The One who comes and bears your pain with you! If you belong to Him! And if you trust in Jesus Christ He promises to Never leave you or forsake you! 
But will that really help you? 
When we are hurting it’s hard to be aware of anything else. 
It’s hard to pray, hard to hope, hard to trust God!  
     Sin brought pain and suffering into the world! Not necessarily your sin! Even if you are not totally innocent, you may be suffering innocently! We live in a fallen world! Not the perfect One God created. And bad things happen to good people – because of Sin! 
So God brought the remedy
He didn’t just declare “There shall be no more sin!” No! God Suffered! He sent His Son. He came in the Form of a living, breathing, suffering Man. He was a "Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." He experienced excruciating physical pain. (Excruciating actually means, pain from the "Cross"). He experienced rejection and hatred. He experienced His Father’s Wrath being poured out on Him! God paid the price for Sin and Suffering! We have Not Yet experienced total deliverance from it. But the day will come, when All God’s People will come to Him, and He will bring Pain to an end!
If you are hurting today, can I tell you, God Knows Your Pain! And while He may not stop it now, He will be with you in it AND it will end!
Let me tell you something - I am not brave in the face of pain! I don’t like it. I have been mad at God. I have cried out to God for Him to stop the pain and yet it continued on. But I know that my redeemer lives, and on the earth again shall stand. And nothing shall separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.       
  Rom 9:14 What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Not at all!  He tells Moses: I will show mercy to whom I show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. …For the Scripture tells Pharaoh: I raised you up for this, that I may display My power in you and that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth. So then, He shows mercy to those He wants, and hardens those He wants to harden. …But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it “Why did you make me like this?”  has the potter no right over the clay, to make from one lump a vessel for honor and another for dishonor? And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and make His power known, endured with patience objects of wrath ready for destruction?… to make known the riches of His glory, on objects of mercy, He prepared beforehand for glory— on us, the ones He also called, not only from Jews but also from the Gentiles?

            Will you trust the Potter? We are just clay.
                             We need to trust Him. He is Strong, He is Powerful. He is Wise.

[1] “Revelation 21:4”

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