“If God is good, why is there suffering in the world?”
The age old question. A question that seems to simultaneously put God on trial and cast great doubt on the Christian life. A question that juxtaposes our experience as we walk through this life and the biblical claims of who God is and what He’s like. As we prepare to remember the atoning death of Jesus and celebrate His great victory over the grave, it would do us good to frame out the answer to this question biblically. In doing so, I believe we will be more able to delight in the wonder of the resurrection of our Lord this Sunday.
If we assume for a moment there is a creator God, it will help us to learn WHY He created us as we seek to understand the state of suffering that we experience. The WHY of our creation is a picture painted throughout scripture, but it is most concisely found in Ephesians 1:3-6
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (ESV)
Do you see the “why” there? We were created and chosen “in Christ” so that we might “praise His glorious grace.” So, God’s aim in creating us is that He might show us a display of His glorious grace. And if God is infinitely wonderful, lovely, and glorious, then we should expect a display of infinitely wonderful, lovely, and glorious grace. This display of grace is precisely the thing we are preparing to gather and remember this Friday: the death and suffering of Jesus. The God-Man Jesus Christ was born into this world of suffering to display God’s grace.
Suffering exists so that Jesus might display the infinite, lovely, and glorious grace of God by suffering to overcome our own suffering. In Romans 8 we learn that through sin entering the world, suffering and death entered as well. The creation of God was placed into captivity to this pain and suffering, longing for the redemption from God. Longing for grace. To be human is to long for the very thing we were designed to desire: Redemption. Grace. Glorious grace.
Isaiah says of Jesus:
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:10-12)
Without suffering in this world, Jesus could never suffer for us so that we might receive this graceful gift of God! But because we live this life of eager longing through suffering, Jesus was able to demonstrate to us the most wonderful, magnificent, and excellent display of God’s grace. The most undeserving sinners are given the perfect righteousness of the only one who suffered without deserving it. In His suffering Jesus took the very wrath of God away from us, He set us free from our bondage to sin, and He dealt the deathblow to death. And we praise Him for this. His glorious grace.
Join us this Good Friday as we remember and reflect on the suffering of Jesus, then join us on Sunday as we delight and revel in His magnificent resurrection. After Easter, we’ll begin a journey through the book of Job that will help us dive deeper into understanding suffering and the sovereignty of God. I hope you can join us for it all!