In the next few columns we’re going to address one of the most pressing and persistent issues in our world –suffering. A global pandemic has now killed millions of people. In another part of a world, a typhoon kills tens of thousands. Closer to home, a child is born with a life-threatening disease and probably won’t live. Everywhere, people of all faiths and those with no faith at all ask the same question – why?
That’s the question man has asked for millennia. While it is impossible to fully discuss in just a few short newspaper articles, we can at least begin to make some headway.
Because we understand God to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent (all-seeing, all-powerful and everywhere), there is a tendency to blame God when these things happen. You’ve probably heard it talked about in terms such as, “Why would a loving God allow this?” “If God truly loves me, why did (fill in the blank) happen?”
It is true God is a loving God. That is clearly understood throughout the Bible. He created us, looks over us, guides us, and most importantly redeemed us through Jesus Christ. That’s the message of 1 John 4:16 – “God is love,” and “this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). No matter what happens to us bodily in this life, we have the assurance of God’s love because of the redeeming work of Jesus (Matthew 10:28).
OK, God loves us, but He sure has a funny way of showing it. If that’s how God loves, maybe we could do without it. Is He just mad as us all the time?
God has gotten very mad as his creation, such as when he destroyed all but Noah and his family at the time of the flood (Genesis 6-9). But we have to remember, we live in a sinful, broken world because of our disobedience to God. He created Adam and Eve in perfection, with bodies that would last forever and never get sick or die. They lived in a paradise in which they had a perfect relationship with God. Through their disobedience sin entered the world, and much like the virus we’re dealing with today, it spread throughout all humanity. That’s why we read in Romans 5:12, “Just as sin entered through the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people because all sinned …” It’s the concept often called Original Sin and we are still suffering for it.
Pandemics, mudslides, tornadoes, cancer and all disease are the result of sin in a broken world. Instead of looking up to heaven and blaming God, we need to look in the mirror and understand what caused the world we live in. Suffering is often the result of our own sinful choices and disobedience, even when we don’t want to admit it and would rather blame someone else. That’s the kind of thinking that blames God when we jump off a tall building and get seriously hurt. Instead, we should blame ourselves (and gravity).
Not all suffering is a result of disobedience and there are reasons for why God sometimes walks us through such difficulty. We’ll start in on that next week.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.
Pastor Brad Schultz, Zion Evangelical Church, email@example.com