How can we make sense out of Evil and Suffering?

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This is one of the hardest questions for us to attempt to answer. The skeptics will say either God is good or He is all-powerful. However, He cannot be both. If evil and suffering exist, (which they do) then God should stop them both if He is good. On the other hand, maybe he wants to stop evil and suffering but he is not powerful enough to accomplish it.

So how do we come to grips with this dilemma placed before us? Part of the challenge is that the amount of debate on this topic is very wide, too much to completely cover in a short post. Nonetheless, I will attempt to give some direction to the task at hand.

First, there is a great chasm between talking about the subject from a distant philosophical or theological perspective versus the actual impact of evil and suffering in our own personal lives. Philosophy is ideology, when the lights go out on a personal tragedy in our own lives; it is difficult to think philosophy without feeling intense emotional grief. Words may not be enough.

pain and suffering

Considering the idea of pain and evil, there is much that we do not know about the purpose behind these things. The scriptures say that all things work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Notice that the text says “all things work for good, it does not say that all things are good. I believe that this is a very important distinction that reveals that there is the potential for evil and suffering to serve a higher purpose in our lives, even if it appears to be senseless to us.

God is good, and yet He does allow evil and suffering to exist. Woven into this thought is the aspects of both love and free agency. God has given humanity aspects of free will. We can choose to love or hate, to do good or evil. This is part of the sovereignty of God. Either He could make us with the ability to choose or He could make us as automatons with no free will. Love without the ability to choose, is not love at all. In addition, if there is no evil, how could a person discern good from evil with nothing to compare to?

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were given a choice that would end up affecting all of humanity. That event was a very big deal. Our modern society does not give much credence to this, but to the Christian, this explains an immense amount of clarity to the subject of evil and suffering. The fall of man is inherent to all. The bible says that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.

Built into our condition is the need to be rescued from it all. This is where the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf is so huge. God incarnate, willing to embrace ultimate evil and suffering experientially, not as a lofty spiritual being detached from personal experience. The descriptive word “excruciating pain”, is derived from the agony of being crucified on a cross. Christ understands our grief and pain because He has experienced it.

Let me end this post with a personal story of Marc Herringer. He was outside shoveling snow when his wife asked him to watch their daughter as she was moving her car. As she was backing up the car, the unthinkable horrible thing happened, their first-born child was crushed to death. So deep the pain of their loss, mind-numbing despair. How could there be any sense of this? Even though this was life shattering at the time, Marc allowed this tragedy to help transform him into someone who would devote the rest of his life to bringing God’s compassion to others that are alone in their desperation. He left the business world to become a pastor.

 He has responded by understanding that things can be good even though tragedy was the catalyst. He says, “God can cause good to emerge from our pain if we run toward Him, instead of away from Him. I have watched that happen in my own life. I have experienced God’s goodness through deep pain, and no skeptic can dispute that. The God that the skeptic denies is the same God who held our hands in the deep dark places.”