The Problem of Evil and God's Love

It is a Painful Problem and a Deep Mystery

God and suffering, theodicy, problem of evil

I provide this first image - not to offend anyone, but to put it in simple, graphic images. This is how many non-Christians think about God and suffering. How can there be an all powerful God and an all loving God and suffering. Does God care? Does God notice? If he does - then why doesn't God DO SOMETHING ABOUT EVIL?

I can't begin to deal with this greatest of questions and most painful of problems in a post... or even a series of posts. This question-problem has occupied the minds of the greatest thinkers (both religious and non-religious) through the long centuries.

Making Sense Out of Suffering bookA grace disguised, jerry sittserThe two single most helpful books on suffering (for me) are:

Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft. 
Kreeft goes looking for clues, not answers. He looks for clues from the prophets, philosophers, poets, theologians, mystics - and he finds clues everywhere. This is a superb book and I cannot recommend it enough.  The second book is:

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser.
Sittser has earned the right to write such a book because he has experienced horrific suffering - a tragic car accident where his van was hit by a drunk driver. In that accident, Jerry lost his wife, a child and his mother. This is his story. The last few pages are perhaps the most profound words I have ever read on suffering.

In addition, I have found C.S. Lewis to be among the most thoughtful, imaginative and creative communicators on this subject. Both his books are worth reading. The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. Here is just one of Lewis's thoughts that show his wisdom about suffering. The reality of suffering must be set in the framework of other great ideas that matter to us. One of them is the theme of free will. Not all, but much suffering is do the inhumanity of man against man... or milder versions, the lack of robust caring love of mankind for those who are in need.

To be human is to have free will and thus responsibility and culpability. I have met very few people who spurn the idea of free will (I have met quite a few who are not as enthusiastic about responsibility and culpability) but they all go hand in hand. 

So, God can indeed act to remove all suffering. Which would mean God acts to eliminate human irresponsibility and meanness and hatred (and greed, envy, lust, murder) and so many of the causes of suffering. But then God also acts to eliminate human responsibility...which means he eliminates love, kindness (and compassion, courage, selflessness and more)which give birth to responsibilty. God can do that. But he doesn't. God doesn't because he has created free, moral agents because that is what it means to be a human being.

God is all powerful. God is all loving. And God is all wise. What is most amazing is that God has entered into the suffering of the world, to share in that suffering and to redeem suffering and eliminate evil. God is at work.

And yes, the image at the beginning, even though it may be the artist's conception - is blasphemous. It is so because it depicts the loving, suffering God as apathetic and even amused. May this final image instead be one that communicates the gracious and good God who works through free, morally responsible agencies, to whom he offers grace, strength, forgiveness and direction. This is only one little thought about suffering. Many, many more are needed.

Jesus weeping, Jesus suffering

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International