Theology of Suffering
I think the problem we have with brutal suffering allowed by a good God starts with a wrong assumption. We must recognize that the purpose he has put us on earth for is not 80 years of pleasant living.
But instead, it is more like an invitation to be part of an epic and everlasting love story. A love story in which he is showing us the depths of his love and fashioning us into the type of creatures that can recognize and bear the bigness of that love.
How epic could the story be if there was no deep suffering to be redeemed? How would we ever see the depths of God’s love for us if He did not churn through the depths of great and dark suffering to rescue us?
Does it make it feel more just if He actually feels more pain than us? If He knows all of our thoughts and feelings, doesn’t this means he also feels all of our pain? And if that’s true He feels more pain than any single one of us. He feels everybody’s pain, always more enduring after death limits the pain felt by each person. Until the very last one of us dies.
I think one main key is remembering that for every person, the pain is immediately over after they die. And they exist eternally free of it after that. A suffering innocent child is not most violated by being killed, but most and immediately freed from the pain. No pity should be held for those who die before the culturally defined expected age limit. In fact if pain and suffering is what we feel is most unjust, then those who have died are most freed from it. And all suffering is a nearing to that freedom.
Would I be disappointed if I entered heaven with a flabby and immature soul because I had not learned to walk under suffering? Left for the rest of time in heaven having missed out on the training only a heavy and broken earth could provide me?
Another key to being okay with this seeming injustice is remembering God gave us the gift of life and pleasure. We were never owed it. And He has the right to take any of it away. How can we blame him for taking away something he us gave to hold as a gift for a while.
The sin of claiming what’s right and wrong
When we condemn God for the existence of evil we are falling into the oldest and an often recurring sin. When Adam and Eve chose knowledge of good and evil over obedience they were choosing to judge God on the standard He created. They chose what they felt was good, instead of what was obedient. The standard of good and evil is not sovereign over God. He defined it. It is a flat reflection of His character. He is a live and dynamic being, the true standard to be sought. But they saw the standard and thought they knew better than God.
And now we know what they gave up by not trusting God in that garden.
Is this not God’s argument to the man who knew the most suffering? God says to Job, “Who are you to say I am wrong to let you endure suffering? I created all of this. I laid the foundations of the world. Where were you then?”
But God gives mankind another chance to put the knowledge of good and evil right back into God’s hands when he asks Abraham to do something that seems undeniably wrong to all of us: to kill his child. Abraham obeys and is blessed abundantly for it. We see the greater story God was working through him. His obedience winning over his conviction of what he thought was right, and this eventually birthing a lineage and culture that produced Jesus who saved all the world. And it was foreshadowed by Abraham’s act to give his son.
And then Jesus gave the same opportunity to Peter (the rock on which he’d build the church) as was given to Abraham. When Jesus says “It’s time for me to die,” Peter says, “I will not let you get killed on my watch,” and Jesus says, “Get away from me Satan.” He was annoyingly aware of mankind’s claim to know better than God. Peter, like Adam and Eve, did not trust the person of God and His unfolding mysterious story. Only long after that mini plot can we see what greater good Jesus was working.
This is why our response to the problem of evil is so important. Can we still trust in God, even when we do not see how it is right? Of course the suffering is not good, but our God who has a plan to allow it is good. And as soon as we say our God is not good because He lets things that are not good happen we are committing the sin of Adam that brought suffering into the world.
What we feel as unfair or unjust should not be our standard to measure God against.
Remember when each of us cried to our mom and dad about something that caused us a lot of grief and we couldn’t understand how it could be a good thing they were doing? And now aren’t we very grateful they did it anyway? Parents know the ‘why’ behind the instructions and require the kid to trust, because they know more than the kids. Do we really see ourselves on God’s level that we can question Him? He was the one who laid the foundations of the world. And trained the great Leviathan. I bet even that big dragon creature has a redeeming purpose. It will be fun to see what it was.
God is the one who knows the ending to this epic story He is writing to be ours.
Raw Spoon. 8-29-17