God & Suffering: An Introduction

“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to; or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, and does not want to, he is wicked. But if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how comes evil in the world?”[1] What a great question! Among Christians, the truthful and biblical claim is that God is, among many other characteristics, loving, good, all-powerful, and all-knowing. However, we are seemingly presented an issue when people (particularly good people) go through times of suffering and are faced with evil. Suffering is an experience in which none of us are strangers. In some form or in some way, every single human being suffers. Suffering differs in its appearance an expression among cultures and generations, yet its presence is felt and questions arise. There is great wonder as to how this God, who we have described as being so good, powerful, and wise, can allow such suffering to come upon us. This is a profound dilemma that faces us as humans. Some insufficient answers to this dilemma include Atheism, Process-Theism, and Open-Theism. There are those who deal with such a dilemma by claiming simply that such a God could not possibly exist. In reference to his life before becoming a Christian, C.S. Lewis would have answered the dilemma of how a God can be good and exist in a world filled with suffering by holding that “either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.”[2] Open-Theism and Process-Theism are two more insufficient responses to this dilemma as they limit God in order to explain the coexistence of God and suffering. Process-Theism states that God’s power is always evolving and that He is limited in His ability to prevent evil. This is to say that God may want to prevent evil and suffering (maintaining His goodness), yet He does not have the power to do it (limiting God’s power). Or in the words of Rabbi Harold Kushner, “It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims.”[3] Along these same lines, Open-Theism states that God’s knowledge is always increasing and because He has limited information, He sometimes makes errors in judgment. In other words, God has a desire to prevent evil and suffering (maintaining His goodness) and He even has the power to do so (maintain His omnipotence), but He just doesn’t know all that will happen and therefore makes mistakes in allowing suffering and evil to occur (limiting His knowledge and wisdom). “Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known even by God. They are potential—yet to be realized but not yet actual. God can predict a great deal of what we choose to do, but not all of it, because some of it remains hidden in the mystery of human freedom … The God of the Bible displays an openness to the future that the traditional view of omniscience simply cannot accommodate.”[4] If we are to approach this dilemma and come to an appropriate conclusion as to how God is good while suffering persists, we must not begin by limiting God, but by exalting Him. Therefore, we must not trust in the ideas of man, but instead make our journey through the Word in order to receive truth from God on this matter.   In the face of real and personal struggle and suffering, there must be a way in which we can to some extent determine and reason the coexistence of a good God with horrendous evil and suffering. With respect to the fallible nature of human minds and the limited comprehension we have as it relates to the ways of God, there cannot be complete understanding of any possible answers to this dilemma of the coexistence of God and suffering. However, it will be sufficient to provide the most accurate and biblical answer as possible and then allow trust and faith to take over. The cross of Christ and the purpose of His suffering must be where we begin, travel by, and end this journey. In accordance with the Word, suffering is not only coexistent with God, but is also ordained, permitted, and caused by God in order to exalt His glory ultimately through the suffering of His Son in order to redeem sinful and unworthy sinners. Suffering is also ordained by God in order to increase our joy. Finally, suffering will be shown to preserve the true Church as it refines the faith of her members.

I will explore each of these three truths as they pertain to God and suffering over the course of the next few days.

By His Grace — For His Glory — For our Joy

[1] Epicurus (fourth-century philosopher)

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

[3] Rabbi Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People

[4] Clark Pinnock


2 thoughts on “God & Suffering: An Introduction

  1. I’ve been asking the same question.

    Why didn’t God snatch the forbidden fruit from Eve and Adam mouth as they take the first bite?

    I blame all the troubles in this world to my very great grandparent Adam and Eve.

    1. If He had forcefully taken the fruit from them not allowing them to sin, we would not have free will. God desires people to worship Him willingly and intentionally obeying His commands. That first sin paved the way for Good Friday, the day where God received most glory and we find our greatest joy in Christ’s defeat of sin, Satan, destruction, and death. This was under God’s sovereign plan before the world began.
      However, full comprehension is out of our reach as in any other doctrine we attempt to fully understand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s