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Last week, I discussed possible philosophical answers to the problem of evil. The problem, however, with approaching the question of how a good and all-powerful God could allow suffering and evil from a philosophical perspective is that philosophical answers rarely touch the raw places in people’s lives, where deep pain and injustice has left indelible wounds. Most people who ask “Why, God?” out of rage and despair need more than to be told “God may have reasons that just don’t make sense to your limited mind at this time.” So what are the more personal responses to the problem of evil? Where is God when you are suffering?
(1) On the cross. The most awe-inspiring, jaw-shutting, worship-inducing thing about the Christian God, if the story of Jesus is indeed true, is that He willingly entered our broken world to suffer alongside of us. On the cross, we see the Son of God, suffering alongside of us and overcoming evil and suffering by dying. When you have suffered abuse, rejection, betrayal, physical or emotional anguish that leaves you crying out to God, recognize that you are crying out to One who has also experienced abuse, rejection, betrayal, physical and emotional anguish – and all of it unjustly. What kind of God would do this for us, when He owed us nothing? This is why I love Him.
(2) Out of the tomb. But our God did not just suffer along with us. He overcame sin, suffering, and death, rising from the grave. And by doing so, he demonstrates his ability to bring good out of even the cruelest, most unjust of ordeals. The resurrection gives hope that suffering and death is not the end, but that our God is able to work ALL things together for good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). When you are suffering, God is already working the evil that has been done to you together for a good end.
(3) In heaven. Jesus did not just suffer and rise again. He is now seated in heaven, where He gives us this beautiful promise about the future of our suffering: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Revelation 21:3-4). One day, your suffering will end, if you know Jesus. And as Paul (no stranger to suffering) put it, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Believe that what you are going through right now is not the end of the story.
(4) With you right now. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God with us to comfort and guide us through our troubles. When you are suffering, God has not left you alone but is always there. Jesus, weeping at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35), is such a reminder to me of the compassion God has towards those who suffer and grieve; even though he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He still wept alongside his grieving friends. Rely on our suffering Savior when you are experiencing times of suffering.
And if you are a follower of Jesus, emulate him by entering into the suffering of others, by being present for them in the midst of their pain, grieving when they grieve and praying for their comfort and hope. As Philip Yancey, a Christian author, put it once, the answer to the question “Where is God when it hurts?” should be “Where is the church when it hurts?”
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