Hi everybody! Today we are going to continue to discuss why human suffering occurs in light of an all-powerful and completely good God. Fun, right?
Don’t worry, the questions will get a bit lighter after this. But I thought this would be a good way to start the blog because questions on suffering are some of the most profound that we must contemplate.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
“Why do we live in a world with natural disasters, disease, etc?”
Another way that we sometimes ask this question, especially in light of a recent hurricane or diagnosis or tragedy is- “Why would God allow that?”
There are two ways to explain why the natural world seems broken: a scientific response and a spiritual response.
The scientific response is pretty straightforward: earthquakes occur because of the tectonic shifting of earth’s plates. Tsunamis are caused by underwater earthquakes. Hurricanes come from divergent weather patterns colliding. Medically, we can explain the causes of most illnesses and pain.
But the scientific response is not helpful when you are concerned with meaning.
We understand the how, but we struggle to explain why.
The biblical story points to our world being systemically broken. Creation, what was once good, is good no longer.
In the book of Romans Paul gives a theological perspective about the current state of our world. He uses the word “creation” to describe the world. Take a close look at how Paul describes creation’s predicament:
“Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
That is a lot of words to say that creation is currently broken (or decaying). Things are not as they should be.
At this point Paul uses a metaphor of pregnancy to explain the current brokenness.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the beginnings of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait…”
Did you catch that? All of creation, and us as well, are waiting. And as we wait, we groan (or lament, or complain or cry) over the current state of our world. We point to what is not right when a family member becomes ill too young. We groan when cancer rears its ugly face. We lament when an earthquake rocks the west coast. We groan and we wait.
What do we wait for?
“…for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8)
We wait for redemption. We wait for the old to be made new again. And the Bible continually looks to a time when we, alongside all of creation, will be redeemed.
Yes, but shouldn’t God do something about the suffering in the meantime?
In fact, God has done something. One of the greatest mysteries of Christianity is that we worship a God that suffers. Jesus came to the world and allowed himself to be crucified- to suffer- on a cross.
God allowed himself to endure the worst that this world had to offer. And when hope seems lost- we find resurrection.
Christians point to the resurrection as a sign of what is to come. Easter is a celebration of the defeat of sin and death.
Timothy Keller, pastor of the Redeemer Church in New York City, writes:“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.”
You see this all over the Bible…
The prophet Isaiah tells of a time when the lion will lay down next to the lamb, and when weapons will be turned into farm equipment.
John, in his revelation, points to a time when there will be no reason to cry because all pain and death will be a distant memory.
Paul, in his letter to his disciple Timothy, reminds us that all that we endure in this current world will be overshadowed by the future glory to come.
The point is this:
Authors of the Bible are less concerned with why the world is decaying and are more concerned with what you will do for your fellow man in the midst of this broken world.
We wait…and we act.
The church is to be a witness to the future glory by being on the front lines of current suffering. And so we mourn with those who mourn. We rebuild when nature destroys. We pray when hope seems lost.
In the end, it seems the Bible is less concerned with the ‘why’ and more concerned with the response to a broken world.
So…who in your life needs you to be the church today? Where do you see pain that you can come alongside of? These are the questions that Christians should be contemplating…
See you on Sunday!