How Can God be Good and All-Powerful When There is So Much Evil and Suffering?

Posted: June 8, 2018 by keystoneyouth in Faith Inspection
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Attention Funnel: This or That

 Introduction:

  • Perhaps one of the most common AND most difficult objections to the Christian faith is the problem of evil.
  • Bad things happen in this life. Painful things happen in this life. And they often cause us to ask where God is or why he would allow such things.
    • A pet that you loved dies. A girlfriend or boyfriend breaks up with you unexpectedly. The sport you love to play is suddenly taken away by a bad injury. You get abused by someone you love. You come home one day to find that your Dad has walked out. Your parents sit you down to tell you that your mom has cancer. A close friend commits suicide. These are only some examples… not to mention large scale things like hurricanes, famines, genocides, and war.
  • How in the world can we believe God is all-powerful and a good Father in the midst of all of this?
    • Because if he is really a good father, then he would want to get rid of all this evil, right?
    • And if he is an all-powerful God, then he would be able to get rid of all this evil, right?
    • Take your pick… it’s a this or that. Either he can be all-powerful OR he can be good, but he can’t be both. He can’t be the God of the Bible, right?
  • This is not simply an intellectual question… it’s a personal one.
    • This is a problem WE ALL have to deal with when things go wrong in our life or we witness horrible suffering in the world.
  • This is by no means a new problem. It’s a problem that people have faced since the dawn of the world.

Big Idea: God doesn’t work how we expect him to.

 Read John 11:1-6

  • Notice the sisters don’t invite or ask Jesus to come. It assumed that as soon as he hears his friends are suffering he will be on his way. To think otherwise is inconceivable.
  • Which is what makes Jesus’ response so shocking… He stayed where he was for two days. Why???
    • Because he loves the sisters and Lazarus… that makes no sense to us. God doesn’t work how we expect him to.

Read John 11:28-32

  • “Jesus if you had just been here this wouldn’t have happened. You could have prevented it.”
    • The hidden questions behind the statement is “Why weren’t you here???”
    • Don’t you care? Were you unable to come? Why weren’t you here?

Read John 11:33-44

  • There are many things this passage as a whole teaches us about evil and suffering… I want to draw out several of them.

 Main Points:

  • Christianity allows us to see evil for what it is.
  • Our pain is not pointless.
  • God got his hands dirty with evil.
  • Evil and suffering have a deadline.

Christianity allows us to see evil for what it is.

  • Christians can look at evil and say, “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” We have a good reason to call something evil.
  • I love the response of Jesus in verses 33-35.
  • He sees the death and mourning of his close friends and how does he respond?
    • It says he is deeply moved.
  • This doesn’t actually do his response justice. Because the actual word means something like a horse snorting.
  • What is going on here? Jesus sees death and the pain that it brings and it causes him to gasp and even get angry and then weep. He can see evil and suffering for what it is… not the way things are supposed to be.
  • The Christian worldview says evil and suffering exist because a world created good has been damaged by sin. In other words, we are exactly right to look at evil and say, “This is not the way it’s supposed to be.”
  • If you don’t believe in God, evil is just a much problem for you because you have no reason to say something is evil.
    • In that case, the world was created and moved along through chaos, chance, randomness, and violence.
  • If there is no God, what basis do we actually have to say cancer, murder, abuse, tornadoes, break-ups, miscarriages, and death are evil??
  • NONE – We can say, “I don’t like it and I wish it was different.” But it’s foolish for us to call it evil. That just the way the world is.
  • Think of it this way… If I have a radio-controlled drone and it doesn’t fly… it makes sense for me to ask “Why isn’t it flying?” Because it was designed to fly. The batteries are probably dead.
    • But if I have a model plane and I put it in the air and it drops and I ask, “Why isn’t it flying?” That would be foolish. It’s a model airplane, it was never designed to fly.
  • Only if there is a God who created the world good and set the standards for good and evil do we have any justification in calling something evil in the first place.

Apply:

  • When we suffer and face evil, we don’t just need to stand by passively and mumble, “God is in control.” It is real, it hurts, and there is a good anger and weeping that should be expressed. We can tell God how we feel and ask our questions.
  • And it was comforting to know that God looks at evil in the same way.
  • So then why wouldn’t he do something about it thought???

Our pain is not pointless.

  • Much of the evil and suffering we face seems so pointless on the surface.
  • We respond by looking for a meaning in the evil and suffering we face.
    • We need to know our pain is not pointless.
    • Several years ago the general manager of the 76ers sowed the seeds of what is now a 76ers mantra: “Trust the Process.” This is a genius phrase, because here’s what it communicates… “76ers fans, things are about to get really bad (like 18, 19, and 10 win seasons bad). And it’s going to be really painful to watch your 76ers. And you are going to want to give up. But you need to know, when things are at their worst, that there is a point to all this pain. There is a process. And you need to trust that this process will deliver great results.”
  • If we do this with small things, how much more do we need this with big things.
  • God assures us that our pain is not pointless… it is part of his plan.
    • In the story of Lazarus, Jesus is firmly in control from start to finish. He knows that Lazarus is going to die and be raised again.
  • Lazarus’ death is not pointless because it’s part of God’s bigger plan. The evil and suffering we face is not pointless, because it’s part of God’s bigger plan.
  • NOW, let’s be careful here. This does not mean we will always immediately be aware of the reason for the evil and suffering in this world.
  • God doesn’t always answer our “Why?” questions, sometimes he just calls us to trust him.

Apply:

  • It’s a comfort to know that to God has a larger plan for all the evil and suffering we face. We can trust him even when it doesn’t make sense in the moment.
  • Why? How can we know God is not out to get me?

 God got his hands dirty with evil.

  • When Jesus heads to Lazarus’ town he is beginning his last journey to Jerusalem, which is going to end in his death. And he knows that.
  • In this death, Jesus is going to be subjected to the worst kind of pain and evil. He is going to experience unimaginable suffering, rejection, and bear the weight of all evil and sin.
  • See it’s one thing to have a God who controls evil, it’s completely different level to have a God who experiences evil personally.
  • God doesn’t just spread manure on the crops, he crawls through the manure on his hands and knees.
  • Why does this matter?
  • Because on the surface, evil and suffering can seem like a cruel joke.
  • Think about Lazarus… “I’m gonna let you die. But then I’ll raise you back from the dead. Gotcha!”
    • I remember one April Fools my Mom came out and told my Brothers and I that school was cancelled. We got so excited, only to have her say, “April Fools!”
  • That’s how evil and suffering can often feel… like a cruel April Fool’s joke.
  • You found the perfect person, you start dating, everything is going great, you think they are the one. Just kidding, the relationship ends abruptly.
  • A GOD WHO GIVES UP HIS SON FOR ME. A GOD WHO GOES TO THE CROSS FOR ME… DOES NOT PLAY CRUEL JOKES.
  • When evil and suffering feel like a cruel joke, we need to cross to remind us: God got his hands dirty… he suffered for me. He didn’t stay on the sidelines, he got involved and ran beside me.
  • And because of this… Evil and Suffering have a deadline.

Evil and suffering have a deadline.

  • Part of the passage we skipped over is when Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus is dead and they are going to head to his home.
  • He tells the disciples that Lazarus has fallen asleep. Why does he say that?
    • I believe he’s saying, Lazarus’ death is only temporary. It’s going to pass.
    • There’s a deadline on Lazarus’ death… and it’s when Jesus calls him out of the grave.
  • When Jesus goes to the cross and then is resurrected back from the dead. He puts a deadline on all evil and suffering.
  • If you have a due date on a big project at school, or a big test looming for you, you might be under lots of stress and pressure to get it done. And the weeks leading up to it might be miserable. But what happens when turn everything in on the due date. You walk out of the door happier than ever because you just went through all that stress and finished it. The happiness of completing the project is made better by all the pain you went through to complete it.
  • Jesus resurrection tells us… all the pain and suffering and evil we face has a deadline, and all that we go through in this world will only serve to make the joy we experience after that deadline that much greater.

Apply:

  • We can confidently say, “One day it will not be like this… cancer will not rage, tornadoes will not spin, rejection will not sting, and death will not steal. It will all disappear.”
  • And all the pain and suffering we face until then, will only make our joy that much greater on that day.

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