For the past few weeks I’ve been looking at proofs of God’s existence. I was planning on examining further evidence that the Bible is clearly the word of God this week. But in light of the bushfires that have ravaged Victoria, I thought it worthwhile to look at suffering and God’s existence. Often non-Christians will argue that God cannot exist because of the pain and suffering in the world. The argument works like this:
Assumption 1: An all-powerful God would be able to end suffering.
Assumption 2: A good God would want to end suffering.
Fact: Suffering exists.
Conclusion: Therefore an all-powerful, good God does not exist.
However this argument is proven logically false because it pre-supposes that suffering is bad. The argument requires we prove that there could not be loving and good purposes behind the continuation of suffering. Yet we do know that not all suffering is bad. Some suffering is ultimately good. For example, we know that chemotherapy to cancer patients brings great suffering, but we also know that doctors do it because it will bring life. Therefore we cannot assume God has no good purpose behind suffering. A good God can still exist in the presence of suffering.
Also, when we speak to non-Christians about suffering we need to present at least two things. Firstly, suffering and death is only in the world because of human sin. God created man without suffering but sinful man brought death and suffering into the world. As sinful humans, we are responsible for our suffering – we cannot blame God.
Secondly we need to honestly tell non-Christians that suffering will continue forever unless we repent and believe in Jesus. Sin needs to be paid for by suffering and either it is we who suffer hell for eternity or Jesus who suffered hell on the cross for us. Therefore suffering in this life certainly can work for our good if it makes us desire heaven where the painful effects of sin will no longer reach us. If we experienced no suffering in this life we would not hope for heaven. ‘But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?’ (Romans 8:24)
The Bible and history demonstrates that in times of prosperity people’s ears often become deafened to the gospel, but in times of suffering they are often opened. At times like these we have a special opportunity to share the gospel. Make sure you do.