How We Reconcile the Reality of Suffering and the Existence of God
Every worldview must provide a meaningful answer to the problem of suffering. It usually comes down to an emotionally debated topic between theists and atheists. Atheists will usually probe for answers among those who believe in the existence of God, suggesting that the reality of evil and suffering make the existence of all-powerful, all-loving God improbable. Too often I have found Christians to be silent in giving answers to such vital questions. I hope that Christians would prepare themselves with compelling answers for this discussion so that skeptics can see the compatibility of Christianity with the reality of suffering, which might sound like a conundrum, but give me a chance to explain.
I break it down to three key points:
1) We see the world as it is, not as it should be.
We have to remember that God’s original creation was tarnished by the marring of sin. Because “sin” is that which goes against God’s intention, sin is, therefore, the antithesis of God’s design. God’s design is good, but sin is what opposes God’s goodness; therefore, it is not good.
The world we live in is post-Fall and pre-Eschaton. This is a fancy way of saying that we live between the timestamps of sin and sufferings entrance into the world, and also the forthcoming day when the Lord Jesus returns to heal the world through judgment.
The Fall introduced suffering and decay of all sorts into the world. So, the world we see is post-Fall; it is not perfected by the governing goodness of God. The disorder of man’s folly led to what we see now, and we know innately in our hearts that all is not as it should be. Our instincts are correct, and they should lead us to God, who will set all things right by “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). That is why we look forward to both the justice and the blessing of Christ’s return.
2) God entered into our suffering to provide healing.
Whatever our plight or our experience of suffering, God has known suffering more than we have. We do not have a God who looks upon our suffering without sympathy. On the contrary, our God knows our pain more than we could possibly give Him credit for.
God’s desire to redeem us went to the extent of His becoming like us. (The preexistent Lord became a man in the incarnation while maintaining His inherent deity. This is also known as the “hypostatic union.”) The One who never sinned, and who only did what was righteous, is the One who suffered the most out of all of the people ever existent in human history.
While we may not understand all the reasons behind our own suffering, we can trust God’s infinite wisdom, in that all He allows to happen. It is helpful to remember that He also predetermined the sacrifice of His Son to heal the world of all suffering.
On the cross, Jesus took the heaviest dose of suffering, far beyond our comprehension. And now we have a great high priest who can understand our suffering, which helps to solve the emotional problem we might have, but not the actual dilemma. But keep reading, because…
3) There is an unraveling plan meant to eradicate all suffering forever.
God is not content with a world marked by suffering and evil, so He is unfolding a master plan to eradicate all suffering and evil—permanently. That is what the unleashing of the scroll is all about in Revelation 5. So, although Christ is the paschal lamb who takes away our sins (John 1:29), He is also the roaring lion who will triumph over His enemies and secure true peace on earth forever (Revelation 5:9-10; 11:15).
Think of the time we have been given before the return of Christ as a time to repent.
The purpose of this delay is the grace needed for people who have not yet done so, to receive the mercy offered by faith in Jesus.