3 Things about God and Suffering
Moving forward, there are three broad things Christians know about God that help when going through suffering.
First, we have Genesis chapters 1-3. Adam and Eve in the garden, choosing not to follow God's perfect plan. As a result,the worlds perfection seen in Eden is now distorted, for a God who is perfectly fair must punish those who do wrong. Breaking good and perfect commands has consequences. When we look around us we can see that through nature, death, emotions, injustice, relationships and disasters, the world is paying for the worlds sin. It is actually quite fair in that sense, as the suffering we see in the world has come about because of the choices made by humans. At the same time,this accounts for the unequal suffering of those who have done nothing specific to deserve the suffering they experience, for such is the broken nature of our world that some 'good' people suffer more than 'bad' people and vice versa. The punishment for Eden shows us that God does not owe the human race more than what he has given us, while the disproportionate element of punishment also frees the sufferer from having to blame themselves for the position they find themselves in.
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Secondly,God has promised a day when all will be judged for what they have done and the heavens and the earth will be recreated. This means that because one day, everything is going to be fair and justice will be done, the Christian doesn't need to worry about passing judgement themselves. The promise of a renewed-creation means Christians can look forward to an eternity of such bliss that their current trials will be remembered as the smallest dot at the start of human history which serves the purpose of showing the future glory to be as incredible as possible. The fact that justice will be taken care of means that Christians are free to be gracious and loving to all they come across they don't need to carry out revenge. While the restoration of all things means that there is hope in the midst of even terminal suffering because the future is so bright. The future is not just a state of mind or a spiritual experience, but a complete, full, bodily resurrection. The Christian won't miss out on anything good by not experiencing it on earth.
Thirdly, and most gloriously, Jesus allows His followers to know that he loves them through the incarnation (God becoming man) and atonement (Jesus paying the punishment for sins), brought together on the cross. To those who have been desensitized to Christian teaching, it is worth stopping and thinking about how incredibly caring, loving and humble God must be if he was willing to step out of perfect surroundings, take the form of a human, be beaten, persecuted and executed by a human court. As Keller puts it,
We do not know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why it is so random, but now at least we know what the reason is not. It can not be that he does not love us. It cannot be that he does not care
And so despite there being some sense of mystery about the issue of suffering, we can now trust God as a loving, all powerful parent much like a three year old should when their mother forces them to swallow foul tasting medicine or takes away their favourite electrical toy at bath time.
The Christian can, through faith and perseverance hold these things dear to them in times of suffering. These Biblical truths provide hope through the promise of recreation, fairness through the fall, justice for those who seemingly get away with evil and a saviour who knows what we are going through. If you are going to suffer, and remember we all will one day or another, it is better by far to suffer as a Christian who is following Jesus.
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