Thoughts on Suffering

Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

This question is known as a Theodicy: how can God be all-loving and all-powerful, yet let evil happen. If he is all-loving and all-powerful then he would stop it all. So he must be only one or the other.

Open Theists answer this by saying that God does not know the future, because he enabled man to have true and real free will. He knows the beginning and the end, but not what happens in between. So if a person has a problem of suffering, God does not know about it until it happens, so he is not responsible for it. They quote the Old Testament references of Genesis where God seems to change his mind. They use Moses’ prayer to God as evidence that we can manipulate God to do our will through prayer. The same goes with Hezekiah to whom God granted fifteen more years of life to after he was on his deathbed.

I like the sound of it, I really do. You don’t ever have to blame God for what happens, and prayer becomes a way to ensure God will listen and change his mind. But it simply is not what happens; this is a philosophical idea that does not fit the real world. When bad things happen, many times they stay bad, even when they happen to extremely good people. If a Christian man becomes blind and God did not know it before, why does he not take away the blindness once this man prays to him and begs for change? Because “bad things” are intentional, they are God-planned and God-led.A great friend of mine has a brother who is a “vegetable” for all practical purposes. He is in his twenties now, I believe, and has spent his entire life in a wheel-chair. Should I ask God, as the disciples did, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Christ answered them, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2-3). My friend has a brother who is in a wheel-chair because it was what God intended, for his glory. Let me give a short list of blessings that have come from his invalid brother: this family is known as extremely humble and giving—they have little, yet they give as if they were rich. This family is loving, kind and sensitive, even though they have been giving their entire lives to their invalid family member. And this family loves God above all else, and it shows. They depend on God alone to support them, and they have found rest and peace in him. It shows. Their family member is their daily opportunity to love the unlovable, and to care for those who cannot reciprocate; in it they resemble God’s love for us.

In John Piper’s recent message, Born Blind for the Glory of God, he speaks about John 9 and the man whom Christ miraculously healed. He makes the point that God not only allowed the ‘evil’ of blindness to come upon the man, but God did it. Piper comments, “Jesus says the cause of this disability is not in past sin, but future effects.” Jesus had this man born blind for just this time, in this town, in this place, with these people around. In finishing his explanation of why this man was born blind, Christ says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). This alludes back to John 1, where Christ is presented as the light of the world. Because to Christ the important thing is not having natural sight, but spiritual sight, as Piper explains: “Jesus calls attention to the fact that he is the light this man needs to see. ‘I am the light of the world.’ Which many blind people see, and many seeing people are blind to.” What is better, to see “natural light” or to “believe” (as the blind man did) and receive eternal peace with God? To taste and see the glory and greatness of God is given to those who have been given spiritual “eyes” as it were. Heaven is promised to those to whom Christ has given the opportunity to “Go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

Sure, suffering seems awful from our point of view, pain seems ‘evil’. But God uses it for our good (Genesis 50:20), to bring us to himself (I Peter 3:18), to treat us as sons (Hebrews 12:7), and to show us how much better he is than physical comfort (Colossians 1:27).

Truly your ways are higher than our ways

Much more can be said.


2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Suffering

Add yours

  1. I almost feel bad giving writing such a short amount on one of my favorite topics, and truly an “endless topic”. That’s OK, I’m working on the book (but don’t tell anyone!). Haha.

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