….If God Is So Good??? Have you ever asked yourself this question? I believe this is a very relevant question, that many of us have faced in our personal journeys to and through our own faith and belief systems. Especially in the wake of the disaster in Haiti. In all honesty it is a great question. One that has plagued humanity for, well, for forever. I don’t think I know a single person who has not encountered this question. I’ve asked this question myself and had people question me with this as their defense in why they don’t “get” my belief. Completely reasonable to do so as well.
So, today’s Good Life Sunday (aka GLS) is based off of the sermon today at my church that discussed this important faith question. It was a very strong sermon that can really get all of us thinking so I would love to share it with all of you. I know my GLS posts don’t get the kinds of comments or views that other posts do, but I can’t keep this message to myself. I beg of you that you all will read through this and share your own thoughts on this (openly and honestly, I have no fear ;)) and that it will be beneficial to us all.
Now on to the meat. Why do bad things happen if God is so good?? There are many attempts to answer this dilemma. On the one side is that evil and suffering are proof that there is no good or loving God. No God at all. He doesn’t exist…all the bad that happens is just the way the world works and natural. But, I can’t see it that way. Not only for the fact that I don’t understand how someone can live without hope, but because what does that mean about all the good in the world. And honestly, despite the headlines and negativity, there is still a LOT of good in our world. Just consider Haiti. Look at the outpouring of love from all over the world that resulted in this disaster. So, as Saint Augustine put it:
If there is no God, why is there so much good?
Now onto side #2. This side claims that God allows suffering so that it can strengthen us and develop our faith. Kind of like the whole “that which does not kill me only makes me stronger” idea. Many of us have had our greatest periods of growth due to a period of difficulty. If you have been through a challenge and come out the other side, you have a renewed sense of strength, hope, and faith. Persevere through something that tries you and you will undoubtedly have a stronger character. The same idea is considered a relevant answer to why God allows bad things to happen. Early 1900’s author and theologian C. S. Lewis describes God’s communication in such a way:
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains! It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
It is so true that many of us, despite our beliefs, can probably be found saying a prayer during a traumatic or hurtful event in our lives. God most certainly wants to bring us closer to us, and some claim that He will use disaster to do so.
Our pastor Stuart Green, of my beloved Sugarloaf UMC, brought up turned this double sided answer on it’s head. What if, there is not supposed to be an answer? What if instead of asking WHY we are supposed to ask WHAT? Instead of asking WHY do bad things happen? WHY are you putting me through this, God? WHY WHY WHY? … what if we ask WHAT are we to learn from this? WHAT do you want to help me/us to accomplish from this God? WHAT can be the greater purpose of this? Consider this – if we had a definitive answer, would it change a thing? Would there no longer be heartache, suffering, pain, death, disaster? No! So what benefit is there to having an answer to why? There can be a benefit, however, if we have an answer to WHAT.
It is similar to how Jesus healed the blind, deaf, sick. He didn’t just give them an answer as to why they were suffering and send them on their way. Instead he cured them. So, instead of explaining to us why there is suffering, God helps to give us a new perspective of hope in times of suffering and, in turn, can help cure the pain. This doesn’t mean that God allows the suffering or causes it. It simply means that in the face of hard times, if we look through the lens of faith, if we try to look through Jesus’ eyes, we can see new possibilities. We can see some meaning and the good that is possible to bring to or take from the situation. Just like the millions of people across the world who have pooled funds and resources to provide aide to those in Haiti, there can be possibilities in disaster. How many of you have heard of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)? This program was started by two women who lost their child to a drunk driver. They took the hardship and found a way to bring good from it and help others. It does not make their loss any less. It doesn’t mean what happened wasn’t bad. It just shows that there is always possibility for good, depending on how you approach a situation. Faith in God can give us a way to understand the suffering.
You might wonder why God can’t just make it all stop? If he is all powerful and almighty, then why can’t he make it stop. Well, because we have free will. Which He gave to us. He doesn’t want these things to happen either, but He has to allow mistakes to be made and hardships to occur. Otherwise, we would never be able to truly appreciate the complexity that is life. Imagine a life with no hurt. Then, how would you truly value joy? Suffering is part of life, and we need to learn the benefits of trusting God in it.
I’ll close with these two things my pastor said that really hit home the point of his sermon:
1) INSTEAD OF ASKING “WHEN THERE IS A GOD, WHY IS THERE SUFFERING?” … ASK INSTEAD… “WHEN THERE IS SUFFERING, WHY IS THERE A GOD?”
2) WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING, BUT WE CAN STAND UNDER ANYTHING THANKS TO GOD AND HIS STRENGTH. He will never leave us. Nothing can separate us from His love. We are not meant to understand everything. All we are meant to do is trust in Him and love. I can promise you that it will lead to a full and abundant life, despite any circumstances.
Do you believe that you can’t always control what happens to you, but that you can always control how you react? Does that bring you peace? Or frustration?