People who are antagonistic towards Christianity have a trump card. At least, they think they do.
Here is how it works:
You have a deep conversation with one of these antagonistic people. You share about your own experiences with the Lord. You discuss the historical accuracy of the Biblical record. You talk about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
At the end, the antagonist rolls her eyes and says, "Yes, well, I can't believe that a loving God would ever allow all this suffering." And then she blinks her eyes triumphantly because she is certain that she has checkmated you.
Can I just say, can I just say...
The entire point of Christianity is that:
(1) God created Adam and Eve and placed them in Eden, in a paradise.
(2) They disobeyed His one simple rule and thus destroyed their paradise.
(3) God spent the next 2000-odd years consummating His divine plan to restore humankind to paradise.
(4) We are not in paradise yet, but we have the opportunity to go there after we die, because of Jesus.
Did you get that?
This earth is not paradise. God does not intend it to be paradise. Paradise, the place where there is no suffering, is in the next life. There is suffering here. This is not paradise.
Jesus said, in John 16:33, "I have told you these things so that in me you might have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (NIV, emphasis mine)
Why would God allow suffering? I think a much better question would be: Why didn't God just trash all of creation and start over fresh when Adam and Eve brought sin, suffering and death into His perfect Universe? Why does God even allow us any chance at all to be reunited with Him?
Now, that is a good question. But it isn't the point of this post. This post is about suffering.
There are those who think that the existence of suffering in the world somehow provides evidence that the God of the Bible could not exist. Such people have obviously never read the Bible.
The Bible tells stories of the lives of many people throughout history. More often than not, they suffered.
Joseph suffered. Moses suffered. The children of Israel suffered. David suffered. Elijah suffered. Jeremiah suffered (we call him "the weeping prophet"). Job suffered. Paul suffered.
The Bible is all about suffering, and how God works through suffering to accomplish His purposes. Over the next few posts, we will examine the life stories of some of these sufferers. Particularly, we will look at how God worked through their suffering to accomplish His purposes.
Before I stop today, though, I want to leave you with this:
Suppose you were a primitive person who had been born and raised in a third world country. You have no education, no exposure to modern science or technology, no familiarity with life in the Western World.
Suppose then that your father became very ill, and some people from the USA found you in your hut, trying to nurse him with whatever dirty water, feeble herbs and superstitious ceremony you had access to. Of course, he was not getting better. So, suppose these Americans loaded him onto their plane, allowing you to come along, and brought him to the USA to be treated in a modern hospital.
You arrive in the airport, everything bright and slick with superhuman voices booming from electronic loudspeakers. You begin to be afraid. But as you arrive at the hospital, your fears accelerate. They strap your father into a bed and stick him full of needles. You think they are hurting him, abusing him.
Then it turns out that your father has a major heart problem. You do not know what it means, but they tell you they are going to have to do "open heart surgery." They allow you into the operating room.
You watch with terror as they apparently kill your father with needles and gas masks. He lies still and cold on the operating table. And then they start to cut him open with sharp knives, breaking through his rib cage to lift out his heart, which they carve and stitch.
This is absolutely horrifying to you. You do not understand why they are hurting your father in this way. You want them to stop. You hate them. You do not understand.
This is how we often feel toward God when He uses suffering in our lives. We do not understand His techniques. They are so far beyond our comprehension, they seem barbaric and cruel. We have no concept of the good He can bring through His ways.
Sometimes, after undergoing certain experiences, we become better able to accept and learn from suffering. Other times, persevering in suffering simply requires great faith, superhuman faith, faith that we can get nowhere but from the very hand of God Himself.
But no matter what, the Bible never says that there won't be any suffering in this life. In fact, it says the exact opposite.
to be continued...