Two big questions about God are these: is he great (all-powerful)
and is he good (all-loving)? One big issue causes us to doubt:
the presence of suffering in our world. We think God is either great
but not good to allow suffering or that he is good but not great
enoughto do anything about the suffering.
It’s not too hard to believe that if there is a God he is great.
But some think the presence of pain disproves his goodness.
One time when our kids were very small we were with friends. Our four boys were playing in another room when our son Kris, at three years of age, announced “Matthew ate some Tylenol.” We found an almost empty bottle of children’s chewable Tylenol and the smell of grape flavor lacing Matthew’s lips. He was breaking bad at an early age.
Kris went on to tell us that he had enjoyed a few himself and so did the other boys. Next thing we knew we had strapped our young druggies in their car seats and were on our way to the emergency room. The doctor had to take some blood samples from each child to see how much pain reliever they had in their system. My wife Karen stood over to the side crying. While the doctor stuck a needle in their tiny veins I held them still and whispered in their ears, “This is all Mommy’s fault.”
Sometimes a doctor has to lead a patient through pain to bring them to health. Pain itself does not disprove his love and care. And neither does its existence in our world disprove God. Even if you choose to deny God because of suffering in our world you still have suffering in our world—your world—that you will have to deal with. And you will have to deal with it without God.
It’s when we look at Jesus that we see both the greatness and goodness of God and how to deal with suffering. Jesus knew suffering: Born in a manger. Born in poverty. Immigrated to Egypt. Worked hard as a carpenter. Had no place to lay his head. Was rumored about. Falsely accused. Beaten. Scourged. Hung on a cross.
The Hebrew writer describes Jesus this way: “… Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…” Jesus knew cries and he knew tears. He also knew God to be great: “Our Father, the One in the heavens…” He also knew God to be good: “Hallowed by your name…”
The rest of his prayer finds Jesus teaching his disciples to ask a personal God to be involved in their daily lives: Daily bread. Forgiveness. Temptation. Deliverance from evil. Deliverance from the Evil One.
The Evil One. Jesus was aware there is another force in our world. Suffering is a part of our world because there is an enemy who uses pain to make you doubt God. He makes you think God is not great and God is not good.
But Jesus believed differently. And so “… for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” Jesus endured suffering here because he had a vision of something better that awaited him there.
Suffering is present in our world. If it hasn’t already it will visit you at some point. In those times don’t let the enemy cause you to doubt God. Instead, believe that he is working things out. There is a joy set before you. That’s some great and good news you can believe in.
— Excerpt from the BELIEVE Study Series by Randy Freeze