Q & R – The Problem of Suffering

So to continue with my new Question and Response series, here is the second question I received from Allalt a couple of weeks ago.  Send your questions through the comment section below or via email to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer them here.

The Problem of Suffering: how can there be suffering in a world micro-managed by a benevolent and omnipotent God? (Allalt)

I like to call this line of questioning, an adventure in missing the point.  The question itself makes some assumptions about God that are simply not backed up by any intelligent reading of scripture. 

First of all the world is not “micro-managed” by God at all.  In my book “Meekonomics; Kingdom Economics from a Love Based Mentality” (Shameless Plug… Buy It Here!) I show that God created the world for mankind to manage, not Him.  Genesis Chapter one says that it is mankind who is to “rule over” creation and in Genesis Chapter two we are given the mandate to “take care” of creation.  What happens next is not an example of how God is less benevolent and omnipotent but the story of mankind coming to terms with the fact that they can do nothing without a mentality firmly rooted in love for one another and creation itself.  (Genesis 1:28Genesis 2:15)

God was already surrounded by angels that obeyed his every wish, what he wanted was to have someone to love him, and you can’t have love if it’s coerced in any way.  If God were to micro-manage the world, as Allalt assumes then love would no longer exist and as the apostle John proclaims “God is Love” (1 John 4:8)

So what then are we to do with suffering?  How do we respond?

The Bible is full of stories of people who faced difficulty in every aspect of life.  (Yet another reason I think it’s true, why would a book intended to show a perfect God allow us to see humanity as it is, warts and all?  But that’s a discussion for another time…) There are stories about how people failed in the face of suffering, and how people overcame it.  But the overarching theme is glaringly obvious to anyone who cares to think about it for more than a few seconds.  God is not “in” the suffering, nor does he “allow” it.  The suffering is a result of a choice made by someone and God’s love is shown through redemption – He is in the redemption business, not the suffering business.      

The Garden of Eden was the only place in history were there was no suffering, and we are on a journey back to that place but the fact that we don’t live there now is not on God, it’s on us.  It is our job to live in a way that points the rest of humanity in the direction He would have us go. 

Bestselling author Phillip Yancey, author of such Christian literature stalwarts as “The Jesus I Never Knew” and “What’s So Amazing About Grace” put it this way when asked to speak at a service for the survivors of a mass shooting at Virginia Tech University.

Do not attempt healing alone…  True healing, of deep connective tissue, takes place in community.  Where is God when it hurts?  Where God’s people are.  Where misery is, there is the Messiah, and now on earth the Messiah takes form in the shape of the church.  That’s what the body of Christ means. – Philip Yancey; What Good is God?

What Yancey was so eloquently saying is that, as Christians it is our job to bring healing to a broken and grieving world.  As I said above, God does not “allow” the suffering, but through His people He does help bring redemption.

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