It’s a fair question. How can God allow organisations like ISIS, who do such awful things, to go from success to success as they sweep across countries, bringing their violence, bloodshed, kidnappings, sexual enslavement and all manner of awful crimes? A related question is often asked in regard to personal suffering and pain closer to home. Why doesn’t God stop the suffering of individuals? Many years ago, when my own mother passed away after an illness, I remember a relative saying to me, "Your God has got a lot to answer for."
The problem that is created by the simultaneous reality of evil and suffering and a belief in a benevolent, omnipotent (all-powerful) God is multi-layered. There are rational arguments that can convince us that evil and suffering do not disprove the existence of God, but these seem unconvincing and do not bring comfort in the raw emotions involved in watching others suffer and the carnage that fills our TV screens. We need to understand the rational arguments, although they alone are not sufficient when faced with a friend or colleague who feels deserted by or contemptuous towards God. Rational arguments alone won’t buoy us up sufficiently when our own doubts about the goodness of God arise.
What will? We need both the rational arguments and a deeper knowledge of the character of God and his ways. We need to take this issue out of the ‘too hard’ basket of Christian apologetics and to each do some deeper thinking. We need to let God and others speak their mind and to reflect on our own responses. To acknowledge that it’s sometimes actually reasonable to cry out ‘How Long’? and ‘why’ to God. And we need to engage in more conversations with our unbelieving friends about this.
Over the years that I’ve been a Christian, I’ve seen people become bitter and contemptuous of God when they or others near them have suffered personally. Alternatively, I’ve seen others grow in their love of God and their sense of blessing through the very suffering that turns some away. I’ve even met someone who came to faith in Jesus Christ through tackling this very question of the problem of evil! Finally, I’ve had my fair share of less than successful conversations about the issue!
That’s why I am so pleased that we are hosting two events that tackle the issue head on and I’m praying and hoping that you will come to them. Both events are part of our Suffering and the God Question conference. They are designed for both sceptics and believers of all ages. Please use these events as a means of catalysing your thinking around this issue and equipping yourself for conversations and for your own circumstances - for we all suffer at some point. Its part of the human condition.