The Issue of Suffering – Who’s To Blame?

Written by admin   // August 16, 2012   // Comments Off

(Part 1 of 2)

Natural disasters and extreme weather such as drought, storms, wildfires, and floods are affecting people around the globe. In 2012 alone, tropical storm Debby dropped an unthinkable amount of rain on Florida in June. On the west coast, firestorms raged in New Mexico and the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs prompted the President to declare the areas affected a natural disaster. Then the record-setting heat wave that many across the country experienced, including Wisconsin, was more than many could bear.

As human tragedies continue to darken our landscape, many unbelievers grapple with the issue of suffering and ask: if God truly exists, then why are there so many natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, mudslides, dam failures, volcano eruptions, tornados, and earthquakes? Why do bad things happen to good people and for that matter why bad things happen at all? Where is God while all of this is happening? These and other reasonable questions anticipate reasonable answers. They often cut deep into the heart of the Christian faith and challenge its very foundation. Disasters, crises and suffering often prompts the unbeliever or skeptic to argue: (1) there is no good purpose for suffering and pain; and (2) an all good God must have a good purpose for everything so there cannot be an all good God. Unfortunately, we cannot always give an answer that satisfies the souls of those who hurt and make sense of their pain. However, to those who use suffering as a reason to deny God’s existence, love, or goodness, the Christian apologist must be able to give an answer.

As we consider the unbeliever’s arguments, first we need to make a distinction. There is a difference between our knowing the purpose for suffering and God having a purpose for it. Even if we don’t know God’s purpose, He may still have a good reason for allowing suffering in our lives. Therefore, we cannot assume that there is no good purpose for something just because we don’t know what it could be.

Secondly, we must not ignore the presence of sin in this world introduced to the human race in the Garden of Eden by the person who first sinned, Lucifer, renamed Satan. (Isaiah 14:12-15, cf. Ezekiel 28:11-15). Sin arises from the abuse of moral freedom and can be blamed for the corrosion of morals, spiritual deprivation, the decline of values and godly principles, and including, but not limited to, the presence of pain and suffering in this world.

Next Month: Conclusion

The writer does not assume responsibility or liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred in any way for readers’ efforts to apply, rely or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.

The Issue of Suffering – Who’s To Blame?

(Part 2 of 2)

Last month we raised the question so many unbelievers and skeptics ask either surreptitiously or openly: If God exists then why there are so many natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, firestorms, etc. It was acknowledged that these are reasonable questions which anticipate a reasonable response. It was proffered that there is a difference between knowing the purpose for suffering and God having a purpose for it. Just because we do not understand God’s purpose for it, we cannot assume there is no good purpose for something. Secondly, the existence of sin in this world cannot be ignored as the cause of suffering. This week we will further elaborate on the issue of suffering and the believer’s response.

When bad things happen to good people, believers must be diligent in conveying to the unbeliever that suffering reveals God’s Sovereign omnipotence. All things, including a natural disaster and suffering stand under the Sovereign control of God. Ronald D. Anton in God’s Seven Ways to Ease Suffering elaborated that “God can use affliction and natural disasters as occasions to reveal Himself and remind both faithful and unfaithful men of His almighty, providential Sovereignty….Even natural disasters can be used to demonstrate human frailty before a fearsome God and prompt conversion by alerting sinners to an impending Day of Judgment, which is both personal and universal.” In every crisis, there is a purpose for it. God is a God of purpose even when in our finite wisdom we do not understand the mind of God.

Not only are unbelievers perplexed about suffering, suffering continues to be a mystery even for God’s people. Dr. Mack King Carter in his treatment on suffering in: Interpreting the Will of God notes that “our reaction to suffering can be a tremendous impediment to a clear understanding of God’s will. When we suffer, depending upon the degree to which we suffer, we tend to feel abandoned by God. But we will forever be bereft of spiritual vision until we can see God in both the sunshine and the rain. God is the God of both.” Whether your suffering is a natural disaster like an earthquake; a relationship disaster, like a divorce; a health disaster like cancer, or a financial catastrophe like bankruptcy, know that just as God can use a crisis in our lives to bring about His glory; He can also take a negative and turn it into a positive. Thus, the argument can be made that while it may seem like a high price to pay, some suffering brings about a greater good.

Then there is the ultimate example of suffering: the Cross. On the Cross, a great injustice was done to an innocent Man so that God might come to all. The evil Jesus endured as our substitute allows us the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation.

Dr. Mack King Carter further noted about believers, which can also be applied to nonbelievers,

We often miss God because we look for God in that which is exalted but never in that which is despised. God’s love is not diminished by problems, pain, disappointment, disease, or death. God is Lord—period.”

Beloved, these are tough times, people are hurting and whether they realize it or not, they need Jesus. As a believer you are automatically enlisted as a member of God’s Disaster Relief Squad. During times of suffering, the believer will be called upon more regularly to answer questions regarding suffering and the purpose for it. Use the occasion to allow God to use you to reach unbelievers for Christ by extending to them God’s Disaster Relief Plan (Romans 10:9 and John 3:16).

The writer does not assume responsibility or liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred in any way for readers’ efforts to apply, rely or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.


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