Apologetics Bible Christian Living Prayer Theology

God and Suffering – A.S.K 14

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BIBLE READING: Psalm 119:65-72

TEXT: You are good and you do what is good; teach me your decrees (Psalm 119:68).

In the previous chapter we talked about God’s thoughts and plans being good for us. That immediately raises the questions we now face in this chapter – which some people think are the most difficult questions of all. If God is good then why do bad things happen? If God created the world good, how come there are bad things like diseases? Surely if God is all-powerful he would be able to prevent bad things  happening? If he is good he would want to prevent bad things happening? So if bad things happen then it either means that God is not all-powerful or he is not good?

art-artsy-blue-1988698At one level this is a very powerful argument. So powerful in fact that it causes many people to turn away from belief in God. It’s not surprising that it is one of the devil’s favourite tricks to use. But remember, the devil is a liar. This is also something I have been thinking about for many years. When I was a young minister I went to collect a girl who was coming to our youth club in the church. I was met at the door by a very angry father who told me that he didn’t believe in God and that he hated him anyway. Why? Because ‘God killed my wife’. We talked for a while and I asked him, how did your wife die? Cancer. Why do you think God killed her? In the course of our discussion I pointed out that God did not kill his wife, although God did not heal her either, but are we really going to blame God for everything bad that happens in this world? I also told him that the most important thing is not why God allows bad things to happen, but what has God done, or will do about evil.

This is a big, big question so let me just outline some things that may help. You can read more about this in a long talk I gave on the subject. The Apologetic of Evil – The Keswick Lecture – 16th July 2014

The Bible teaches that God is good (see our text). Indeed he is the only source of good and the very definition of good. He cannot even look upon evil, never mind do it. The Bible also teaches that God is all-powerful. So how did evil come to exist? Did a good God create evil? Was he powerless to prevent it?

A North African man called Augustine thought about this over 1,500 years ago and came up with what I think is a brilliant biblical answer. Let me summarise it in this way.

• God created all things.

• Evil is not a created thing – it is the absence of good.

• God did not create evil, but permits it for the good.

‘And, in the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its own place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil. For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if he were not so omnipotent and good that he can bring good even out of evil’ (Enchiridion ch. 11).

God is so powerful that he can even bring good out of evil. God created the world with human beings in it and gave us a choice – to follow and love him freely or to choose evil. We chose evil. We chose to try and be gods ourselves. As a result, sin, death and evil entered God’s good and perfect creation. They are now part of the natural order. But God did not destroy the world, nor did he leave us to destroy ourselves.

There are two ways God could deal with evil – one is to destroy us all now and throw us all into the fiery pit designed for the devil and his angels. The other is to send his Son to die for our sins and so defeat death, sin and the devil. As we will see in the next chapter this is what he did!

So to answer the questions above. God did not kill your father and God does love the widows and orphans – he is a Father to the fatherless. Because humanity turned away from God, we live in a fallen and broken world where bad things do happen. But we can pray ‘deliver us from evil.’ God does want the best for us and is so great and powerful that he can make the bad things turn out for the best. ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

CONSIDER: How would you help someone who is suffering? What did Jesus do to save us from suffering? Do you trust God to bring good, even out of what appears evil to us?

RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING:   Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering – Tim Keller

PRAYER: Lord, you are good and the giver of all things good. I trust your commands. I trust your Word. I trust your goodness. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Your Word is more precious to me than anything in the world. In the midst of all my pain, help me to know that you are good. Deliver us from evil. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Mind of God – A.S.K 13

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  1. A great, concise explanation. Keller’s book covers the topic in some depth, and length, but I’m not sure how age appropriate it is. If your book is being used by adults as teaching material with teens, the adults could benefit from your recommendation. (Not that I’m suggesting the book is beyond all thinking teens.)
    CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain is worth a look, but it is so long ago that I read it I’m unsure whether is approaches the subject from the same theological starting point.

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