If God is good, then why is there suffering in the world? This might be the most controversial question in history. We want to assume that if God is good, He would not allow us to experience pain. Some argue that if we suffer, God must not have known it was going to happen. Others argue that our suffering is all our fault, and that we shouldn't blame God for any of it. Either way, the reality is that God could stop all the evil and suffering in the world if it was within His nature to do so. He hasn't. Does that make God less than good? Does it make Him less than God?
Yesterday, I spoke on Psalm 77 at Open Door. In my study of the passage, I was surprised to see the psalmist openly question God in the midst of his suffering. He genuinely asks God: "Are you still loving? Have you forgotten to be merciful? Have you withheld your compassion?
We have a tendency to think that if God is good, He will keep us from suffering or that He will immediately remove us from it when we ask. The truth is, God almost never takes me out of suffering when I ask. I have seen Him work miraculously and providentially when the situation doesn't affect my comfort. He has answered my prayers many times when it had to do with ministry or someone else. However, when I am experiencing tragedy or when I am watching tragedy happen, he often lets me endure it.
I have wrestled with this at times. Recently, I have come to some comforting conclusions:
- God doesn't mind us asking questions of him (Psalm 77:6-9).
- God loves me and is powerful. If God allows me to suffer, it is ultimately for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28-30)
- My suffering is directly linked with my relationship to him. Jesus suffered. Being like Him means I will too. I am closer to Him as a result of my suffering (Romans 8:16-18).
- God's goodness is not contingent on whether or not He frees me from suffering.
- The most encouraging thing I can do is to remember who God is by recalling what He has done (Psalm 77:10-20, Job 38-41).