Woody Allen once boldly stated, “If God exists, I hope he has a good excuse.”
Pain and suffering are experienced to different degrees by all of humanity. If God is both all-powerful and good then why does He allow suffering?
When disaster hits we feel shocked. When we observe evil we are outraged. Is it possible that we possess an inbuilt sense that all is not as it should be?
As a Christian I believe we live in a fallen world. A world damaged by evil that was not meant for us. Evil, pain and suffering are experienced by mankind due to the choice made by Adam and Eve to disbelieve God. God made us as beings with the prerogative to choose. Sometimes those choices result in inflicting pain on ourselves and others. We also suffer through no fault of our own, experiencing the heartache of a bereavement or enduring an illness.
So what is God’s response?
He sent His son Jesus Christ, to come and live amongst us, to experience all the highs and lows of life on earth and then to die on the cross to take the punishment for our sin and to give us a way to restore our relationship with God.
During Jesus’s time on earth He felt the effects of pain, suffering and evil just as we do. John 11 tells the story of His friend Lazarus who became ill. Jesus arrived too late. Lazarus was already dead and had been buried in a tomb. The compassion and grief Jesus experienced is described in the well- known verse, “Jesus wept”.
In John 11:33 “He (Jesus) groaned in the spirit and was troubled”. The Greek word used here is “embrimaomai.” It means to ‘snort with anger’, to blame, sternly charge, groan, murmur against. Surely this anger along with the grief points towards a sense that death and suffering were not meant to be? Jesus must have thought so, because his next action was to call Lazarus and raise him to life.
God loved us enough to suffer with us. He acted and sent Jesus. At the end of time He promises to set things right, (Rev 21 : 3-5). C. S. Lewis eloquently describes how God supports us through the dark times when he wrote “When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all” .(‘The Problem of Pain’ C.S. Lewis)
Ten years ago I was hit by a car. I was seriously injured. I sustained multiple pelvic fractures and spent 3 months in hospital bedridden not knowing if I would ever walk again. My little girls were just 4 and 9 at the time. I was traumatised, afraid, in terrible pain, and I just wanted to be at home saying ‘night night’ to my children; not ‘bye bye’. The questions and pleas for help I directed at God seemed continual: ‘Why me? God, are you there? Why do I feel so alone?’
During that time, I made a decision to trust that God would see me through. I can honestly say that my relationship with Him deepened in a way I would not have thought possible. I don’t believe God was the author of my suffering. I don’t claim to fully understand the balance between God’s sovereignty and what He permits, but I do trust Him. I have a deep sense that He works everything together for good. My first few steps were a triumph; the only response I felt was to praise God. The relief and gratitude for things I took for granted transformed and added a beautiful value to my life. I will never forget the sheer contentment of being at home with my family. I had a new, overwhelming appreciation of nature and beauty, having spent months looking at a grey building through my hospital window. And of course, the joy of saying ‘good night’ to my children and watching them sleep peacefully. After a year of rehabilitation, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, and whilst still on crutches, God blessed me with a little boy. He was born on Christmas Day. The profundity of that Christmas gift was not lost on my husband and I.
After all, God sent humanity the ultimate gift of Jesus Christ to restore all that went wrong. What will our excuse be if we don’t accept Him?
– Cheryl Hackett