I grew up in a Christian home. For as long as I can remember, I have been taught that God is love, and that he is all-powerful. He is the benevolent Lord over this world, and he is in control.
Generally speaking, I have no problem with these teachings. My observation of creation and all of its splendor easily aligns me with belief in an all-powerful God who made it all. I can look at my life and see all of the good (undeserved) things that I have enjoyed, and it is not hard for me to believe that this same God is benevolent.
But what about the ugly in life? One does not have to look far to see that things are not as they should be. Words like “evil” and “suffering” remind us of the horrible reality that ours is a broken world. Glance at the news for any amount of time and your optimistic beliefs will be challenged. Assumptions about a good and powerful God may even be replaced with questions: Is God truly love? Is God truly in control?
I don’t know what has happened in your life, but I can certainly say based on some life experiences of my own that suffering happens. Even more, based on things that I see on the news every single day, suffering happens much more often and much more horribly to people all over the world than I could ever imagine. So, where is God?
I will not try to completely answer that question in this short post. All I can say is that God is indeed good.
I know this because of what he has done.
I was once surprised to learn that the Bible does not actually give a direct answer about where evil itself originated. That fact was obnoxious to me. After all, inquisitive minds want to know. It seemed to me that Scripture sidesteps a pretty important detail. However, the more that I thought about it, the more I came to appreciate what Scripture does say about evil. We don’t get a straight answer about where it comes from, but we do have God’s answer to evil and suffering. And it is a pretty incredible answer.
Sin separates us from God. He requires that we be on the same level as he is in terms of holiness, something that no one can do, as we are all fallen. So, what did he do? Did he abandon us to suffer forever in this fallen world? Absolutely not. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see that God is indeed all-loving. When we were unable to live up to his righteousness, he came down to our level. Ours is not a God who distanced Himself from this evil world. Ours is a God who took this world on; and not as a mighty being, but as one of us. And while he was here, he endured the sinful world, was mocked, beaten, and then murdered. To paraphrase Tim Keller, he hates the evil and suffering in the world so much that he came and lived through it in order to overcome it. We can ask where God is in the midst of so much suffering, and the answer is that he is sympathizing with us, as he went through it too.
While we do not have an answer about the origin of evil, we know what God did about it. In a sense, he took responsibility for it. The responsibility that was ours was put on himself. In that act, we find not the answer to why we suffer, but the profound truth that God is not indifferent to our suffering. He cares.
Does suffering happen? You bet. Is God all-powerful? Our sensibilities tell us that he is. But is he all-loving?
The gospel of Christ tells me that he most certainly is.