In class this week, we have dealt extensively with some of the classic responses to evil and suffering in our world. No one can deny that we face a wide of variety of trouble and pain in this world; it is the universal experience. Because we all experience a level of suffering and because we are all affected by evil in some way, we find ourselves asking the big question: WHY? Why am I in pain? Why did this happen? Why did God not do something?
Historical Christianity has offered two basic solutions that can be broadly categorized as the Arminian response and the Calvinistic response. From the Arminian view, evil and suffering come as a result of people who have complete free-will to do evil and inflict suffering on others. The universe itself operates, in a sense, “freely” as storms, earthquakes, and tsunamis occur according to natural laws. In this case, evil and suffering are due to a lack of God’s presence. From the Calvinist perspective, God has pre-ordained the events of this life. What happens to us, whether at the hands of others or as part of the natural order, come from the hand of God. He has in mind a greater good, and all things will work together for good. In this case, evil and suffering are from God, but for our good.
So, when people suffer, one of these broad systems is typically brought in to help explain why the person is experiencing their pain or trial. What I have found, however, is that knowing why, having an answer as to why we suffer, rarely helps alleviate any of the pain. Both systems have holes that leave us unsatisfied with the answer.
What is really needed in the midst of our pain and suffering is to know where is God when I suffer? Or put another way, how does God feel about suffering? And for me, this is the real beauty of the Bible. While the Bible provides only scant evidence about the source of evil and suffering, it offers extensive and conclusive answers to the question of how God feels about our suffering. The power of the Bible is in the revelation that God himself came, not only to suffer with us, but more importantly to suffer for us. Jesus Christ came as the full expression and revelation of God. And what did He do? He suffered and He died in order to proclaim to us how God feels about our suffering. When we look to the cross, we should see not only an incredible sacrifice, but the true heart of God; a God who loves us so much that He entered into our world to become like us. And like us, he experienced pain and suffering, but to the utmost degree.
So, if you, or someone you know, is experiencing pain or suffering, I want you to know that it’s okay to ask why. But in the asking, keep in mind that something greater is waiting to be discovered than an answer. What I pray you will discover is the One who came to be The Answer. In knowing Him, and experiencing his partnership with us in pain, we can find our way forward.
May you know The Answer on your journey today.