So today the question was posed to me “How can God be good when the world is full of so much evil?” This is a fairly common question for those who are struggling with faith or coming to grips with the realities of Christianity. We do, after all, look at this world and see all sorts of tragedies and terrible things that haunt us. There is starvation, murder, rape, genocide, abuse, greed, and a myriad of horrors that grip our world. So how do I still find hope in Christianity? How can I still worship a God and call him good? While some people can’t believe in a God who would create a world full of suffering, I can point to my God and say that he understands suffering and refuses to let us participate in it alone.
Pessimism is easy, and hopelessness is the natural state of man in a sinful and broken world. One could easily become very pessimistic when one focuses only on the evil in the world. Christianity openly admits that there are terrible things in this world and suffering exists. We don’t claim a perfect world, but rather a world gone wrong. This reality is not perfect, but it is also not abandoned. Suffering is, in Christian thought, the result of a broken world that has left its proper order and strayed away from God. By allowing man to choose his own destiny and to have the free will to choose between good and evil, God had to allow for evil to exist. In order for love to exist a choice has to exist, and in order for a choice to exist the wrong choice must be an option. Every time we choose selfishness over love, pride over humility, greed over generosity, comfort over justice, or pleasure over aide, we make the world a little darker. This world is full of evil, and God allowed it to be so. So why is God worthy of love?
For starters the fact that anything exists regardless of its good or evil nature is completely due to God. We’ve focused a lot on the negative so far, but let’s deviate and look at all the wonderful things that life has to offer. That means that every good thing you have ever experienced came from God. Your very life originates from him. Our world is broken but not abandoned. Beauty, love, grace, mercy, kindness, generosity, joy, patience, goodness, self-control, gentleness, and faith still exist. Life still has to opportunity to be wonderful and we are surrounded by more blessings and beauty than most of us realize. All of this originates from God. So while evil exists, so also does good and for that we are thankful.
The question of suffering is still lingering despite the fact that goodness and life exist. So why does man suffer? The better question would be “Why do you think you deserve not to suffer?”
That’s a thought that usually comes off like a slap in the face to most people, but honestly consider it. Why do you think you deserve comfort and a life free of suffering? Are you so entitled that you think by your very existence (which you played no part in) that you deserve a life completely devoid of pain and misery? Do you think you deserve all good and no bad? Perhaps you would argue that you are a good person and therefore God owes you something. For those people I offer this helpful info-graph:
You see, being good some of the time doesn’t mean you deserve to be blessed all of the time. By Christian understanding the fact that you are evil some of the time (and you are evil some of the time) disqualifies you from being worthy of any blessings at all. So by that logic the fact that you have even one blessing makes you blessed beyond what you deserve.
You see, Christianity believes that human beings are sinful, which basically means by choosing evil even once we have become imperfect. This imperfection causes a rift between us and God who is perfect, and also contaminates the world around us since a world filled with imperfect beings would cease to be perfect. The world is messed up because evil exists, and evil exists because man was given the option of following God or choosing evil and abandoning the natural order.
Man when held to a standard of holiness, finds that he is not holy and therefore doomed to be separate from what is holy (God) forever. Man is unable to redeem himself, and scripture says “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). As a result is in need of a redeemer. We believe that in spite of the fact that we chose evil, God willingly took human form to show us the way and then took the price of our sin (suffering and death both spiritually and physically) so that we could be made whole.
Let me put it this way: Christians worship a God who created a perfect world that man screwed up, but because he loved us he chose to participate in the suffering of man so that he could make a way for us to be redeemed from our own mistakes. God does not just sit back and observe suffering, he is a willing participant in it because he loves us. We worship a God who loves us more than he loves his own comfort (imagine if we could only do the same). Through Christ God showed both justice, mercy, and grace to humanity. Because of Christ we are living in a period of renewal and we have the promise that one day all wrongs will be made right and all suffering ended.
God knows what it was like to be cold, to be burnt by the sun, to sweat, to starve, to be sick, to want, to need, to be tempted, to be weak, to lose a loved one, to be beaten, to be tortured, to suffer, and to die. God knows what it is like to offer up a prayer of deliverance and have to deal with the reality that this trial is not one that you will be spared. He knows what it is like to fear death:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
– Luke 22:42
God knows what is like to feel abandoned by God:
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
– Mark 15:34
God knows what it is like to lose your only son….
Life, at times, can seem pointless. We are born into a world where suffering exists and as much as we run from it, it eventually catches us. We are here one day and gone the other and as we seek out purpose the weight of the world can come in and seem quite overwhelming. So what hope does Christianity offer? We offer the hope that God is good, that evil is in retreat and that eventually all things will be made pure and good. We offer the hope that all are welcome in the house of God, and that repentance, forgiveness, grace, and mercy belong to all who are willing to reach out and grasp them. The difference between Christianity and any other theology is that, we worship a God who knows what it is like to be completely human. We worship a God who knows our pain and relates to us on our level. We worship a God who is no stranger to suffering, but allows it because he believes that those who cause suffering are still capable of good. He never gives up on us.