The Big Why Question is superseded by the question above! In the final analysis it is “not why, but how”, not to explain the “why” of suffering but “how” to endure suffering!
I concur wholeheartedly with William Lane Craig when he writes: “I’m convinced that for most people the terrible suffering in the world is really an emotional, not an intellectual, problem.” He then asks and answers this question: “Does the Christian faith … have the resources to deal with this problem …?” His response: “It certainly does!” Amen!
We must not give in to our sinful nature turned in on itself, but instead focus on Christ whose ultimate self-sacrifice alone can deliver us from ourselves, spelled out in Romans 5:8 which sets up Romans 8:28, 31-39. God’s incomparable love for us inspires and empowers us to endure and conquer whatever torments our heart, soul, mind and body.
In Romans 5:8 we read: “… God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We read these exultant words from Paul who walked through many a hell on earth with Christ, trusting in His love:
What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
… Who can separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:31-39)
When facing life in all its bewildering misery and heartache, injustice and horror, when unable to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we put our trust in how God feels about us. God reveals His love through Jesus Christ, a God Who humbled Himself to be one with us, for us, and even in us. He embodies the Answer to Evil in His life, death, and resurrection!
We cannot hope to understand the infinite mind of God, but we can grasp the compassionate heart of God Who suffers with and for us amidst the excruciating evil of His betrayal, rejection, torture, and death! That God would condescend to go through such a hell on earth even answers, to some extent, the anguish-incited agnosticism/atheism of Albert Camus who wrote: “Only the sacrifice of an innocent god could justify the endless and universal torture of innocence. Only the most abject suffering by God could assuage man’s agony.”
God’s demonstrated self-sacrificing love, unmatched in both history and fantasy, reveals a God we can certainly embrace with our heart! This is a God, this is a loving Father who was as His children can trust and follow through this life on a war-torn, disease-riddled, fallen, and fractured world where evil things happen to good people – even to Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. As we struggle to look through a glass darkly let us envision a loving Father who allows us to run and play like children, knowing that even when we fall and break a bone, that bone will heal stronger and better than it was before.
Somehow He will take not only this world but us and make us better than ever, and better than we can begin to imagine – far beyond any Eden, Paradise, Utopia, or Sangrila!
While we struggle through this life we need to focus on looking forward beyond this time and place to when we shall experience triumph over tragedy, victory over misery, final judgment over all injustice, and eternal life over temporary death! In the meantime, like the Apostle Paul, we can rejoice in our “soul making” which he calls “character making” in Romans 5:3-4: “We rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.”
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s observes, “there is empirical support for the ancient view that people need adversity, setbacks, and perhaps even trauma to reach the highest levels of strength, fulfillment, and personal development” (Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, p. 164). We rejoice in being able to climb mountains because of being with God in the valleys, but we rejoice most of all for God enabling us to soar beyond all earthly limits and levels when we enter His New Heaven on Earth!
That is when all the suffering and pain shall be forgotten forever as if it had never been! We won’t have to look back to understand the Big Why because somehow there will be nothing there to see.
I sit amazed when I read how the Apostle Paul endured “afflictions, hardship, difficulties, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger, … slander … as poor … having nothing” (II Cor. 6:4-5, 8, 10) and yet also write in the same letter: “… we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day (enhancing Christ-like character).
For our momentary light affliction (What reverse hyperbole!) is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory (to counter balance all that happens within time and space). So we do not focus on what is seen (which cannot be explained within the context of time and space), but on what is unseen (beyond time and space). For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (4:16-18).
May Babbie Mason’s words be inscribed on our hearts as we trust our self-sacrificing, suffering God to bring us through personal pain and anguish:
God is too wise to be mistaken.
God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don’t understand,
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His heart!
We close with Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.”