Whenever we deal with suffering or evil, there are many temptations we must face. For many people, one question they grapple with is “why?”.
When we ask the question “why” – why evil, why me, etc… we are beginning the theological and philosophical activity called theodicy. Theodicy is a defense of the goodness and love and power of God in the face of evil.
Because the “why” question appears to be a natural response to our experiences of suffering and evil, we rarely question its legitimacy.
But if we are honest, the why question accomplishes little for the sufferer. Intellectual answers do not satisfy nor do they bring healing. C.S. Lewis experienced this reality. He grappled with the problem of evil in his philosophical work The Problem of Pain fin 1940. Then, when his wife Joy died, he struggled deeply with the problem of evil, writing reflectively A Grief Observed under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk in 1960. As Lewis’s experience shows us, the problem with evil is not why it exists, but what it does to us. Evil tempts me to think, “I am all alone in this trial and no one understands me.”
If intellectual answers don’t satisfy and heal, what we need most is an encounter with God’s love. And we encounter God’s love at the cross of Christ. Isaiah tells us that the Suffering Servant has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isa. 53:4).
It is natural to wonder where is God in our suffering or in our experience of evil. Martin Luther, upon reflecting on the Psalms, believed that if we truly believe in God as the Sovereign King, we will respond with lament. And our lamentations will help us confess or forgive. But these activities must be in the context of friendship so that we might be a community that can absorb our suffering. Paul calls this a bearing of one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1).
How do we do this?
- Allow lament. Because of Enlightenment thought, we expect that everything should be fixed, including people. The Bible, however, doesn’t expect people to fix one another. Instead it allows room for grief, sorrow, and lament. If lament is an expression of grief and at the same time a trust in the sovereign God, it is right for us to allow someone to cry out to God.
- Encourage forgiveness. When we have done wrong or we have been wronged, the danger to our souls is to nurse the wound or wallow in pity. When we see how much God has forgiven us in Christ, our response will be to repent of the wrong, seek forgiveness, or extend forgiveness to those who have wounded us. This liberating work of God sets us free from the rage of evil.
- Cultivate friendships. In a world where we throw everything away that can’t be fixed, our temptation is to do the same with friendships where there are burdens. When we truly have friends, they stick closer than a brother (Prov, 18:24). Have friends with whom you can share your burdens, confess your sins, and be encouraged to persevere.
As we rage against the evil in our world, may we grow in grace, love, and patience as we await our Saviour. Until then, let’s cry “Maranatha!”
Come Lord Jesus,
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.