I read once that the biggest obstacle to today’s nonreligious population’s ability to believe in God is suffering. “How can a good God allow so much suffering?” In fact, it’s a serious dilemma for Christians, too. Suffering is everywhere. Our family and friends suffer (death of loved ones, lost jobs, bankrupted savings); our country suffers (corruption, dragging economy, loss of troops); the world suffers (fiscal collapse, natural disasters, selfishness, hatred, warfare).
So why does a good God allow suffering? I have read hundreds of pages on this subject, and must confess that all I’ve learned is just now beginning to make a small dent in my heart. This tells me knowledge alone doesn’t cut it. We need more.
My husband had a stroke many years ago. At the time we were told it would take years for his brain to create new neurological pathways around the damaged brain tissue. Thirteen years later, we have seen this healing occur to a degree. So it is with “head knowledge.” Like a water brook that meanders around rocks and under tree roots, it takes time and a lot of grace for what we learn to seep…ooze…trickle…drip along Spirit-breathed virgin pathways to the heart.
Ultimately, we aren’t God, so we can’t begin to truly fathom His ways. The sooner we get that through our skulls the better off we’ll be. Even reading from the pens of other saints who have wrestled with this subject, I find I can’t “force” heart knowledge. But I can, I believe, dig the Spirit-birthed pathways a bit deeper by lingering (meditating) on what I read, comparing it to Scripture, and prayerfully asking the Teacher to bathe me in the truth of what I am trying to understand.
Over the next few days I want to share some opinions (none mine) about suffering. Hope it helps you, as it does me, begin to grasp the fringes of God’s purpose in allowing suffering to occur.
Few contemporary Americans have suffered as much as Joni Eareckson-Tada, who became a quadriplegic at age 17 through a diving accident off the Maryland shore. In her early 50s, she began experiencing chronic pain. Now entering her 60s, she is fighting breast cancer. She has asked many questions of God over the years, and has struggled with a tremendous range of emotions. Through this, she has formulated the following Biblically-based concept of suffering:
“Suffering is connected to sin; if God were to get rid of suffering, he’d have to
get rid of sin, and then he’d have to get rid of sinners. And God is too merciful to
do that.” When we struggle with suffering … “we aren’t accepting the fact that this
earth is wired to be difficult. … We experience much suffering because we live in a
fallen world, and it is groaning under the weight of a heavy curse. If God being good
means he has to get rid of sin, it means he would have to get rid of sinners. But God
is a God of great generosity and great mercy, so he is keeping the execution of suffering
until there is more time to gather more people into the fold of Christ’s fellowship.”
Think about it. More to come.