Turn on the news right now and you will hear:
– a Tornado killed 5 overnight in Texas
– the threat of nuclear war by North Korea
– Refugee crisis as millions flee war ravaged Syria
– Thursday night armed robbery of Vineland Burger King
– Myra Brown’s sister-in-law killed in a head on colission. Myra’s brother is a pastor and just returning from a mission trip to Mexico
– Lowell, Doug, Libby, Myra, Sarah and baby McKenzie all facing cancer
Disasters on the small scale, and LARGE SCALE
If God Exists, why is there suffering and evil in the world? This is a question posed by atheists against Christians. Noted atheist SAM HARRIS is a good example of this objection to God’s existence in light of human suffering: “If God exists, either he can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities or he does not care to. God, therefore is either impotent or evil…There is another possibility of course, and it is the most reasonable and the least odious: the biblical God is a fiction, like Zeus, and the thousands of other dead gods whom most sane human beings now ignore.” (Sam Harris, quoted by McDowell and Morrow, “Is God Just a Human Invention?” 210).
These questions linger in our minds as well. The author of Psalm 10 asks,
“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies. He says to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.” His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.” Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless. Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, “He won’t call me to account”?” (Psalm 10:1–13, NIV84)
The Psalmist questions the seeming ease of those who practice evil.
I. Every World View Offers an Explanation for Suffering and Evil
Eastern Pantheism teaches that suffering is an illusion.
Eastern Pantheism Ignores suffering
Atheism teaches that suffering has no meaning. It is just your own personal bad luck.
Atheist author and philosopher Richard Dawkins writes: “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason int ot, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely no design, no purpose, no evil and no ogher good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” (Ibid, 211)
Dawkins writes about “BLIND PITILESS INDIFFERENCE”
Atheism Attributes suffering to BAD LUCK
BUT – This is NOT HOW WE RESPOND to suffering and injustice! After the planes crashed into the towers, did people say “just bad luck?” NO they were ANGRY. They sought to give and receive comfort. There is a clear reason for this. It is because we are created in God’s image! When injustice strikes we seek justice!
We are NOT LIKE THE ANIMAL WORLD.
We have a soul
When the cheetah chases the herd of gazelles and kills one, do the gazelles, gather around and say “HE GOT HARRY?” Do they parade by and morn over the slain gazelle? Do they sit around and tell stories of how Harry made them laugh? That only happens in the WORLD of DISNEY FILMS!
The Human soul, created in the image of God longs for justice and meaning. The very fact that we are grieved by INJUSTICE tells us that there is such a thing a JUSTICE
Religion teaches that suffering is due to your own personal sins. No one is innocent. Do something bad and God is going to get you. God is viewed by most religions as a retributive God, ready to strike down people for crossing the line.
This is the vew reflected by the religious people of Jesus’ day. Do you remember the story of the blind man in John 9? “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”” (John 9:1–2, NIV84)
Like Job’s friends, the disciples wondered whose sin caused the man to be born blind. But Jesus teaches them that God has a bigger agenda than just administering tit-for-tat retribution for our shortcomings.
Eliphaz: “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” (Job 4:7, NIV84)
Bildad: “Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.” (Job 8:3–6, NIV84)
Religion BLAMES THE VICTIM
What is God’s Answer ?
A. Suffering is a result of SIN. God created a PERFECT WORLD. Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, NIV84). God created FREE BEINGS who could love and honor him out of a willing heart.
B. God is both PATIENT and JUST. Ezekiel 18:23 “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” Psalm 103:8-13 “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;” (Psalm 103:8–13, NIV84)
C. God’s Patience and Justice MEET at CALVARY. Sin brought PAIN, SUFFERING, INJUSTICE and DEATH. To conquer sin, God sent his Son. Jesus Conquered Sin by enduring PAIN, SUFFERING, INJUSTICE and DEATH. Hebrews 2:14-15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
D. God is concerned for our suffering! Jesus came to sympathize with us. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18, NIV84). God listens. “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” (Psalm 10:14, NIV84)
E. God is Knowable Even when Suffering is Not. The “why” of suffering is unknowable. But GOD is knowable! Randy Alcorn writes : As much as we would like to believer otherwise, our greatest good is not the absence of pain or the satisfaction of all of our desires – [Our greatest good] is to know God! Ibid, 220
How do you respond to your PERSONAL SUFFERING?
How do you respond to SUFFERING in the WORLD?
Does it bring you closer to God?
Do you see his presence more clearly in your suffering?
Point others to receive God’s comfort in their moments of suffering.
Tell them how God has comforted you.