A Quick Word from Pastor Mark:
Our oldest daughter, Ashley, is an eighteen-year-old young woman who we are very blessed to have in our life. Every week she sends us an email about what she is learning. In one recent email she shared what she is learning about suffering and the problem of evil. I shared her email with some people who found it helpful. So, I thought it might be helpful to pass it on to you as well. I did not know the Lord at her age and am overjoyed at her strong Christian faith and want to publicly thank her for giving me permission to share her email with you.
From Ashley, On Suffering and the Problem of Evil:
We dealt with the classic dilemma of how a good God could allow evil to exist if He is all powerful. First, we must distinguish between good and kind. Our teacher used the example of a doctor treating a patient with a life threatening disease. The kind thing to do would be to administer painless treatment so that the patient can feel some relief. The good thing to do would be to stop the disease at all costs, even if it is a painful procedure. In a fallen world where we’re all dying from the disease of sin, God will always choose to do the good thing, not necessarily the kind one. That’s His character. Instead of saying, “How can there be evil if God is good?” we ought to ask, “How could anything good possibly exist apart from God?” You see, James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift is from above. He gave us the choice to sin or choose what is right, yet we continue in our sin.
I am so thankful that God’s goodness outweighs and atones for the evil of the world. And talk about the innocent being punished…God sent His only perfect son to die for the salvation of the entire sinful world. We want free will and good simultaneously, but we often fail to understand that those two can’t coexist in a fallen world. For those of us that find hope in Jesus and see our need for Him, the more evil we see, therefore, the more we see God’s goodness. The contrast makes us thankful for His grace and love and ability to use bad things for His good. If we only lived in a perfect, blessed world we wouldn’t see the need for a savior and we certainly wouldn’t understand God’s absolute power over evil.
To identify good and bad in our lives, we made a list of the top five worst things that have ever happened to us. Then we made a list of the top five best things that have ever happened to us. I had a sort of lightbulb moment when I saw that the bad things were all results of sin and evil, whether mine or otherwise. Many even involved spiritual warfare. I honestly couldn’t blame God for any of them.
On the other side of the spectrum, the good things were solely results of the grace of God. I couldn’t take credit for any of them. In fact, the best things were the ways that God had redeemed the bad things. I have a much greater appreciation for God’s goodness the more I see the gap between my total depravity and His continual faithfulness.
I have never fully understood what it means to fear God, but I realized that I should fear Him because I know that He will always be just and good, which sometimes feels evil and bad to me. I don’t have the same perspective that He does.
He won’t choose to kindly let me keep sinning, but rather will give me trials and tests to learn to turn to Him. Such trials will certainly be difficult, but I will count them as joy if they give me the chance to be steadfast in my relationship with Him.
We often ask for ease, comfort, happiness. God instead gives us love, because He is our good Father. And sometimes that love feels like discipline. Hebrews 12:6-8 says that to be sons of God, we must endure discipline. It feels painful in the moment, but it later yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Of course not all suffering is a punishment for our sin, but, nonetheless, all suffering gives us a chance to learn and grow.
This lengthy explanation may not convince anyone in an apologetics debate, but if I learned one thing this week, it’s that my own testimony of God’s work and faithfulness in my life is the strongest evangelical tool He has given me. The more he teaches me and tests me, the more testimony I am able to give to the rest of the world.