There’s a lot to be said about the problem of evil in the world, but this isn’t so much about disputing God’s existence based on human suffering. This isn’t a philosophical problem. It’s more about questioning his care for us… his affection… when we suffer. It’s really a resurrection problem.
What?? Stay with me.
When we are in the midst of a confusing or painful season, we wonder to ourselves – Where is God? Does this bother him? Why isn’t he stepping in to fix this? Will praying about our circumstances do anything? And if not, then why pray?
I read an article that talked about our perception of God being “silent” – that it’s merely that – a perception, not reality. And that in those moments, we must put our trust in the promises we know, not in what we see right in front of us.
But I think it’s not so simple. Yes, by all means, we should trust the words of Scripture that promise God will never leave us or forsake us, or that we are loved beyond all measure and comprehension.
And, often we need to believe in what we can’t see right in front of us. “We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
But the problem is – the biggest evidence of God’s love and care for us is right in front of our noses, and in our minds it doesn’t count. God’s love has never been more apparent than in the rescue mission he planned from the beginning of time – the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And if we’re honest, we don’t really think we need saving…so then the death and resurrection of Christ…just doesn’t really matter. And it certainly doesn’t provide much comfort. Why would it?
Let’s take it back a few thousand years to those grumbling Israelites in the wilderness. We give them a lot of grief for complaining about manna and building idols, but they had the same problem we do… they’d forgotten what a sorry state they’d been in just months beforehand when God miraculously rescued them from their slavery in Egypt. Exodus and the books to follow are constantly harkening back to the rescue from Egypt in an attempt to remind the Israelites not only how bad things used to be, but that God cared about them so much, he literally moved heaven and earth (parted an ocean, sent a bunch of plagues on their captors, led them with fire…talk about a dramatic escape) to save them. They were enslaved. They were dying. They were without hope. But God.
God loved them too much to leave them in their mess. He rescued them. And a few weeks later, they were already forgetting how significant that was.
And we do the same thing.
We can’t be comforted by the finished work of the cross – by Christ defeating death and rescuing us to live with him forever – if we can’t even remember or acknowledge our need to be rescued. So then, when we feel pain or loneliness and we wonder where God is, the very best ‘proof’ that he cares about us, doesn’t ‘work.’
But…for the sake of experiment… just TRY it. Try for a moment to imagine a world in which God cared about you so much, that he went through the most gut-wrenching broken heart anyone has ever experienced. That his body was ripped apart, he was treated with merciless cruelty, mocked, teased, broken, beaten, dismissed, and rejected.
All to rescue you.
All to save you.
Because you actually do have a problem. You need a savior. I do too. We’re enslaved…not by Egyptians, but by our selfishness and pride and greed and disordered desires and beliefs that we’re just as important as God or that we don’t need him. Ephesians 2 says that we were dead. Unable to do anything to save ourselves. Dead people can’t grab the paddles, yell “clear,” and restart their own hearts. Someone has to step in on their behalf. And God not only did just that, but he planned it since before you were even born. He loves you enough to step into our crappy world, live among us, suffer and die with the weight of every evil – every hell – crushing him.
So, if we imagine such a world, does that change things? When we endure loss, when we’re depressed, when we lose a job, when we go through a breakup… could it be that we can turn our eyes back to the love poured out on us at the cross as a reminder that God cares the MOST?
I’m not saying it makes pain go away. Sadly, that’s the nature of a broken world filled with a bunch of free agents who choose to rebel against God all the time. This life is full of suffering. But we do have a rescuing God. If we choose to believe in our need…then that rescue means everything.
Last thing. If you’re reading this and you’re my friend, then know that you are loved. By me. By God. If you can’t sense his love right now, lean on mine and take my word for it that it comes from a deep well of supernatural making. Maybe God has me in a season where I can ‘see’ God’s goodness and care, so that I can have an extra dose of trusting him, to share with you for a while until you see it again too. I’m praying for you. I trust that God loves you, and has never left you. Let’s walk along together in the gift of community God has given us, as you come home to him.