Summary: This message probes the question of theodicy. How are we to understand suffering? How do we develop a healthy and Biblical Theology of Suffering?
April 3, 2022 Sermon - Hard Questions Series; “If God is Good, Why is There Suffering?”
Where IS God when things go wrong? If God is good, why is there suffering?
Today is the last in our short series where we have been exploring hard questions of the Bible, of God. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief journey.
We really hope that it’s become clear that we can ask questions, we can struggle with the Holy Scriptures, we can talk to each other to help each other wrap our brains around the Word of God.
It’s a very important part of growing as disciples of Jesus.
Did you know that we do this together anyway on an ongoing basis?
That’s part of why we run two weekly Bible studies, one where we unpack the Scriptures and themes that we focus on on Sundays, and the other a study for men who are really growing in our fellowship and love, and in mutual sharing and caring for one another. We are discipling one another.
I hope you consider connecting with one of our weekly Bible discussion groups that we promote every week during our announcements.
And if the time they are held doesn’t work for you, please let us know that you are interested in connecting but at a different time. And we’ll work toward making that happen!
This church is a safe space to explore, to question, to doubt and to grow in our understanding of God and His immense love for us.
We’re not afraid of questions, because we know that questions asked in sincerity can clarify our understanding of ourselves, of the Church and of God.
I came into the faith with nothing but questions and doubts. Probing those questions and doubts led deepened my faith, and is likely why I’m here today.
Again, when we’re sincere and genuinely seeking God, our questions can and will deepen our understanding and deepen our faith
WHEN we are open to the answers. WHEN we are open to the answers. And I’d suggest that our sincerity in asking questions gets revealed by our openness to good answers. When we are genuinely seeking God we will be open to good answers to our questions.
So the question of how God can be truly good, and yet why in the world when God is good, is there still suffering in the world - that’s a good question! That is a really, really important question. Really important.
I’m a bit of a Bible nerd, so for the other nerds here I’ll say that the fancy name for this topic is Theodicy.
Theodicy means vindication of God. It is to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil, thus resolving the issue of the problem of evil. It is the defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.
Here’s the problem in a meme:
Some think of this as a perfect argument against God. I once thought of this as a perfect argument against the existence of God.
This is considered the best summary statement against God by a lot of scholars and people who spend way too much time trying to come up with reasons to ignore God.
Bertrand Russell, an author I used to read to validate my disbelief in God said this: “The difficulty is old, but none the less real. An omnipotent being who created a world containing evil not due to sin must Himself be at least partially evil”.
So the question of: “If God is good, why is there suffering?” is a good question. But you know what’s more important?
The answer to that question is actually more important, because the answer we come to will define us as people, and for sure it will define our faith journey.
A good answer helps us to sort through, to reconcile the genuine, painful hardships of life that are common to all - suffering is the one constant that everyone faces
- and a good answer can help us to mature, to grow, to probe our doubts and then draw much closer to God.
A poor answer that ends up supporting the doubts expressed in the question might shipwreck faith. I’ve seen it happen.
Some folks just don’t develop a healthy ‘theology of suffering’, so when hardships come - and I can guarantee you they will come - when bad things happen, we’re then left without being able to sort through them, to understand them, and we’re left with a huge hole in our hearts, a hole that can then grow calloused and even resist inviting God to heal.
Same thing happens to a good answer that is nevertheless rejected. It leaves us adrift, at sea spiritually, which I don’t think is where we want to be. So our answer to this question gives us our theology of suffering: Where is God in suffering?