Today: Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Six Big Questions - # 2 - How can God love me in a world of suffering?    (4/17/2016 )

What if God had made a pain-free, suffering-free, death-free, no-problem world -where all was sweetness and light, right from day one?

Well, the book of Genesis suggests that’s just what he did! It was called the Garden of Eden and it must have been a wonderful place to live.

So why didn’t he keep it that way? The Bible’s answer is that something went disastrously wrong - not on God’s side, but on ours. The problem seems to be that if you want to build a world with choices in it; which is based on relationships; where humans are real people with real minds of their own... the whole thing is open to the possibility of things going wrong. People are free to make bad choices as well as good choices, hurting as well as helping.

In other words, we messed up! And a great deal of human suffering is about those wrong human choices - we inflict suffering on each other and ourselves.

But creation is also a dynamic place. If it were sterile, powerless and shapeless it would be more like a blob of jelly than a place worth living in. So, if there’s going to be warmth there has to be a sun - so some things get burned.  If there is going to be life, there has to be food - with the possibility of hunger. And if life is going to be worthwhile, there have to be some mountains to climb.

In fact, it’s difficult to imagine what a world without risks and challenges and change would be like. It might actually be too dull to put up with.  It might make for a safer planet but it would be pretty sterile. Yet all of those things which we treasure imply risk - too much or too little rain, soil that needs turning, the darkness of night, the heat of the day...

On the positive side, these are gifts to be eternally thankful for - that we live in a world worth living in and where we are constantly faced with choices and challenges.

Yet 'unfair' suffering still happens to the best of people; it's a puzzle, and can be very distressing. Job, whose story is told in the Old Testament of the Bible, was a good guy who lost just about everything. What God showed him in the end was that there were some things too big for him to understand, that at some point he had to keep on trusting in God.

Since then, Jesus has shown us that we are not on our own in suffering.  He has suffered and does suffer with us. The cross is the sign of the love that God has for a suffering world. I don’t understand the 'why' of suffering either, but then I don’t understand the depth of God's love.  However, I know the two come together in the death and resurrection of Jesus. He is with us.

This is one of Six Big Questions

Read more about ‘What if you are not here by chance?’ in Six Big Questions, a 24-page A5 booklet which encourages you to ask hard questions about the Christian faith—and which offers some answers. You can download it instantly, or get it by post, for just £3.95.

Next week, we’ll consider “What if Jesus was who he said he was?’

Prayer: Lord, when suffering comes, help me to deal with it with courage and patience, to fight the roots of suffering, and to find day by day a deeper relationship with you. When I struggle to understand, help me to go on struggling but also to trust. And thank you for those who mend suffering and share your healing work.

To think about: How much of your life is taken up with easing suffering - and why do you do it? Is “the problem of suffering” sometimes an excuse for not believing or not exploring answers?

Challenge: Could you do something more to relieve suffering?

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