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Suffering and the Goodness of God

By October 10, 2019No Comments

By Nick Harsh

Have you ever stopped to consider just how significantly sin has devastated the world around us? We see political turmoil, financial panic, racial tension, and death. Death. It seems to be all around us. We live in its stench whether we know it or not. Typically, we can ignore such realities, yet every once in a while, the impact of sin gets a little too close to home—family members die, parents get divorced, or someone you love gets sick. These moments shake the very framework of our worldview. In these moments, we ask, “How could God allow this to happen?” “Does God care?” Or perhaps, “Does God even exist?” Growing up, my dad used to say, “God is sovereign, and God is good. The two never contradict each other,”—but there are days when God doesn’t appear to be good or sovereign.

Often what you see with your eyes doesn’t seem to make sense in light of the realities you know to be true. It is one thing to affirm that God is both sovereign and good. It is a different thing to consider how that might be true. You’ve heard the question—how can a good and loving God allow so much evil in the world? A wise dude once said, “Of publishing many blogs there is no end, and too much studying makes me sleepy,”—or something like that (Ecclesiastes 12:12). I would imagine that a significant number of blog posts have attempted to answer the “good/loving God question.” Just ignore the irony that is taking place—there is really nothing to be done about it.

Perhaps we will always ponder why an infinitely sovereign God who spoke the universe into existence ex nihilo (i.e., out of nothing) is free to do whatever He wants with His creation. We may never have every question answered. That’s okay. All the same, don’t forget that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and most certainly meant it for his demise. God intended it all for good. Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “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” (NIV). When Paul said that God works all things for the good, he was not celebrating a first date gone great or a massive tax return—Caesar wasn’t so kind (1 Corinthians 7:7; Romans 13:6). God doesn’t merely work all good things for the good of those who love Him. He orchestrates all things towards that end; even the parts we don’t like. The dissonance is part of the symphony. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Paul did not view the world through rose-colored glasses. He acknowledged suffering, not as evidence to disprove God, but as a reality compatible with God’s goodness.

We find a similar idea in the book of James. He writes, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:6–18). In other words, when you are tempted to doubt God’s goodness, remember. Our Father gives good gifts. He is a good Father, and every blessing we have is from Him. God’s goodness does not ebb and flow like the waves or shift like the sun across the sky—it is constant and never changing.

God is a good Father. He loves to give good gifts. If you struggle to believe that, let me encourage you—look to the cross. There the most significant suffering in history collided with the greatest gift anyone could ever offer. Jesus the sinless Son of God—perfect in character and equal in essence with God the Father—took on human flesh and willingly faced the suffering of this world. It is through the death of Jesus that we have the hope to face suffering. His death guarantees that someday pain and suffering will end. As believers, we have the privilege of identifying with Jesus through suffering. You and I are never more like Jesus than when we embrace suffering with joyful steadfastness. So if you are suffering today, look to Jesus Who is with us in suffering, can sympathize with us in weakness, and left us an example to follow.

Nick Harsh is a pastoral intern at Soteria Church, Des Moines, Iowa. This article was first posted to his blog and is reposted here by permission.