I was speaking with a couple of young men this week in my office and the topic of suffering came up. Really, it was more a conversation surrounding why God allows such things in His creation. The philosophers love to discuss this subject and often issue a forced choice set of presuppositions that begins something like this.
God is either not all-powerful or He is not all-loving (good) for He cannot be both. If God were all-powerful, He would stop or remove all evil (suffering). If He were all- loving (good), He would not allow suffering (evil). Since there is suffering (evil) in the world, He is either not all-powerful or all-loving (good).
On the surface, this “logic” seems sound for why would a supreme, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God allow a malignant cancer in His universe. If God is God, then He could simply banish it, forbid it, or remove it; He did none of these.
God chose to allow humans free will and with that choice, came the consequences of their choices. God did not make us robots and He does not make us love Him. It is a choice. God could have done anything He wanted but He did not choose to follow the “logic” of the philosophers. God chose otherwise.
The point of this blog is not to definitively answer the charge of the philosophers but to answer another question connected to it. For those who are interested, and are not daunted by a large book, Randy Alcorn has written an excellent response to these guys entitled, “If God is Good; Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.”
Where my thoughts went because of my discussion with these young men is to the concept of faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” states Hebrews 11:6. Faith is an interesting concept and a wonderful topic of study. With faith, we can please God, quench the fiery darts of the enemy and move mountains. Without it, we cannot please the One that we should desire to please the most.
Hebrews 11:1 clearly tells us what faith is – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I love the word hope – “the earnest expectation of good.” Whatever may befall me, I have hope. God is good and He will turn whatever happens into something good. At least according to His plan and purposes, which most times are way beyond my understanding, but I know it will be good because I have faith.
There are many things I cannot see with my eyes, but I am convinced that they are real. I can’t see air, electricity, the earth’s rotation, and atoms, yet I know they exist. I have not seen God, yet I know He exists. I have faith, and faith sustains me, even in times of suffering and evil. When everything crashes around me, I have faith. When the enemy attacks with a full onslaught, I have faith. When people disappoint, friends betray, health fails, and all manner of evil abounds, I have faith.
This is not blind optimism, for those that know me well know that is not exactly a strong suite of mine. I tend to be somewhat pessimistic, okay, Eeyore and Puddleglum are my heroes, but I will save that story for another blog. Faith is different from being optimistic. I know everything will work out for the best according to God’s plan because I know God. I know God’s Word and it is true, therefore I am not blindly hoping things will work out, I know they will even if I suffer and die.
To be transparent, faith is not always my initial response. My emotions are not totally under the Lordship of Christ, I just have not matured to the place where I immediately rejoice when suffering, and trials hit. I know what the Scriptures state regarding such things but my mind often interferes with my faith. For me, faith is a process. After the initial reaction, I calm down and remember, call to mind as the bible states, and I come to a place of rest. God is faithful. God is just. God is love. God is all-powerful. God is all-wise. God is all-knowing. God is all-powerful. God is. Since these are true, and I know that He loves me, I can move to a position of faith.
While living on planet earth we will have trials and hardships, suffering and pain, longing and loss. We will also have a measure of joy and pleasure, but all of it is prep work for eternity. We are citizens of another country. We serve another King. We are bound for another city, a heavenly one. In this, I have great faith.
By the way, there are multiple presuppositions in the philosopher’s forced choices above and we must learn how to recognize them when we encounter them so we are not swayed by them. Just because someone presents us with a forced choice, that does not mean we have to take one of them. Their choices may be completely wrong to begin with and thus invalid. In this case, these learned folks are adamantly implying many things that they cannot possibly know.