Summary: What the Bible teaches about God, evil and suffering and how we should respond to suffering based on those truths.
If you could ask God one question and know that you would receive an answer, what would you ask?”
Several years ago, Christian pollster George Barna posed that question in one of his surveys and the number one response by far was the question that we’re going to deal with this morning: How can a good God allow suffering?
I’m not surprised at all that was the question that people would most like to ask God. I’m pretty sure that all of us have wanted to ask God that question at various times in our lives. And it’s certainly a question that comes up every time there is a school shooting or a natural disaster or when there is a terrorist attack or even when a loved one gets cancer and dies.
When his 3-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that meant he would only live until his teens, Rabbi Harold Kushner attempted to answer that question in his book “When Good Things Happen to Bad People”. And since it was published in 1981, over 4 million other people have apparently turned to his book to get answers to that question.
In his book Kushner concludes that there are only 3 possibilities when it comes to suffering:
1) God does not exist
2) God exists but He is not good
3) God exists and He is good, but He is not all powerful.
Kushner choose the third explanation – that God is good, but that He just isn’t powerful enough to prevent bad things from happening to “good people”.
First, just let me say that Kushner’s entire premise – that bad things happen to good people – is a problem right off the bat. While, as we’re going to see in a moment, God is good, the Bible is clear from cover to cover that no man is truly “good”. That is why I have phrased our question this morning a bit differently – How can a good God allow suffering?
Fortunately for us, we don’t have to depend on the ideas of Rabbi Kushner or other humans for the answer to that question because the Bible has a lot to say about this topic.
So here is how I want to approach the question this morning. First, I’m going to share some important facts about the nature of God and about suffering. And then I want to spend some time talking about how we ought to deal with suffering in our lives. And then, since I’m not going to have time to address it in this message, we’re going to use the Bible Roundtable time after the service to talk about how we should respond to suffering in the lives of others.
6 FACTS ABOUT GOD, EVIL AND SUFFERING
1. God is 100% good
One of the possibilities that Kushner raised was that God exists but He is not good. Even though Kushner rightly rejected that idea, it is one that many people still hold to. But in the first chapter of his letter, where he is writing about the idea of trials and tribulations in our lives, James confirms the idea that we see throughout the Bible – God is 100% good:
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:16–17 ESV)
God is, has been, and always will be 100% good because that is His character and He never changes. And because He is good, He gives good and perfect gifts to His children.
2. God is sovereign over all suffering
This is where Rabbi Kushner got off track, which is really amazing given the fact he was a rabbi who should be familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures, including the book of Job.
If there is any doubt about at all about God’s sovereignty when it comes to our suffering, the book of Job certainly should clear up any confusion, There we see that God is in complete control over the suffering that Satan causes in Job’s life. He determines exactly what Satan is permitted to do and what he is not permitted to do in Job’s life.
And we see that even in New Testament times this idea was commonly understood among God’s people. As I’m going to talk about some more in a moment, when the disciples saw a man that had been born blind, they may have been mistaken about the reason for his blindness, but they had no doubt that God was completely in control when it came to the man’s suffering.
So if you’re going through some kind of difficulty, trial or suffering in your life, you may not know exactly why that is occurring and it is very likely that I’m not going to be able to discern that either. But what I can tell you with 100% certainly is that your suffering hasn’t in any way caught God off guard because He is in full control of what is happening in your life.