Tuesday, January 26, 2010

God and Suffering

I recently received an email from my father with the same title. It prompted me to journal my own thoughts regarding the subject, given the circumstances of suffering that currently surround my family and many friends as well.

First of all, I believe in an omnipotent God, one who is all powerful. After all, he created the universe! God is also omniscient, meaning he is "all-knowing". How could he be the "beginning and the end" otherwise? In other words, God has the power to do whatever he wants, and he know everything that ever was and ever will be.

I have often said the phrase, "God is in control." It was brought to my attention that this could be interpreted as meaning God controls everything, which would eliminate free will and reduce us to the role of puppets. That certainly is not what I mean. When I say, "God is in control", I mean God knows what is happening and he has the power to allow it or stop it.

One could also interpret the phrase "God is in control" to mean he causes bad things to happen. Where we certainly have biblical evidence of God's judgment (remember the flood?), we should also remember that we live in a broken world.

Not only is God all-powerful and all-knowing, he is also a relational God. We see evidence of his love song to us throughout the pages of the Bible, and if we are observant, in the pages of our own life stories. He gives us free will because he desires our love, our trust, our relationship with him. And because he desires a true relationship with us, he gives us the choice. So often we do not choose the things he desires for us, the things that are best for us. And sometimes, bad things happen as consequences of those bad choices.

I'm not saying that sickness and death, loss and pain are God's punishment for our sins. I'm not saying that he causes these things to happen to teach us a lesson. I'm not even saying that all bad things are explainable.

I am saying I believe God is good. This fallen world is not. And until we get to heaven, we will continue to experience evil, because He prowls the earth. Is my God able to stop him? Yes. Does he choose sometimes not to? Yes. Do I always understand his reasons? Most definitely no.

But I cling to the verses that read, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28. And afterwards, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8: 35-39.

It is because of these promises, that we can continue through our struggles and not give up to despair. Number 1: God loves me. Number 2: God is always with me. Number 3: No matter what bad thing I am experiencing now, that can not separate me from my God. Number 4: Even in the bad things, God is working actively for my good, because I love him.

Do I sometimes need help in remembering this? Yes! That is one reason why I took the time to write it out tonight. I have felt weak and overwhelmed and overly burdened. But saying what I BELIEVE, even when I don't always FEEL it, helps give me strength. Hopefully my struggles will give someone else strength as well.

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