I'm starting this series, examining objections that are raised to the gospel, by looking at one of the biggest. The existence of suffering, injustice, grief and misery in this world is undeniable. You only have to listen to the news for a few minutes to hear of some atrocity or tragedy that has devastated real lives.
Yet we believe in a loving compassionate God, one who is sovereign and all-powerful. There is nothing that is outside of his power to influence, and there is nothing that is less than perfect and good in his nature. How do we reconcile the two? Indeed, some would ask, can they be reconciled?
First of all, I want say that however we approach this subject it must be with sensitivity and compassion. There are no easy answers, and even if there were, a glib comment gives no relief to those whose lives have been turned upside-down by tragedy. This subject has engaged great minds for centuries, and if we think we are going to come up with something definitive in a few lines in a blog we are in for disappointment!
This doesn't mean, though, that we have nothing to say, or that we have nothing that can be of comfort. The Bible has volumes to say about suffering, and about the suffering of the Innocent; indeed one of the longest and oldest books in the Bible is devoted exclusively to this subject (a book sadly neglected by many Christians) - the book of Job.
Job was a man who faced in one day, tragedy that most will never face in a lifetime. He lost his children, this fortune, even his health. He was left with nothing. In this situation he had to face the issue we now examine, but not as an intellectual exercise, but from the inside. How could a good God cause so much suffering in his life when he had done nothing to deserve it. His own wife told him to abandon his faith in the goodness of God. His friends tried to persuade him that he must have deserved it. But Job set a remarkable example in that in all that he suffered he maintained that God was good and worthy to be praised. In the end Job's faith was rewarded and his fortunes were restored to everything they were before and more.
There is however an even greater example of one who suffered though he had done nothing wrong - the example of Christ himself. Whatever the reason for suffering, it is clear that it is indeed something that God cares about deeply! Wherever he went, Jesus did good and mended broken lives. He brought comfort, healing, forgiveness and restoration to whomever he met. More than this he took upon himself the most horrendous suffering, the like of which we will never know, all for our sakes. God is not detached and aloof from our sufferings. He does not look down and think: "Serves them right!" However much the news of the latest tragedy moves us, it moves God's heart more. Indeed it moved him so much, he sent his only son to die to put it right.
So how did it go wrong in the fist place? Well, when God created man, he was created to give God glory. He was the pinnacle of God's creation. As such, he was not a mindless automaton, or a powerless slave that had no option but to do what God asked. Where would be the glory in praise from such as these? But man was created with both choice, and freedom to exercise that choice. The love and worship he gave to God would be freely given. However in giving man the choice and freedom to choose good, he by necessity gave him the choice and freedom to choose evil.
God did not create evil, but he did allow it to take place because of his greater desire to be united with us - the objects of his affection. In this way the existence of evil no more disproves the existence of God, than the existence of shadows disproves the existence of sunshine.
If what we saw today was all there was or ever would be there would indeed be cause to question the goodness or power of God. But we know that although not all things are good, God is working all things for good. Just like the sufferings of Job, we know that God will not let the situation go on forever, and that there will come a reckoning when every deed will be accounted for, every tear will be dried, and any suffering will be more than compensated for.