On Evil and Suffering
Carl: The next stumbling block in my way is all of the evil and suffering in the world. How can you possibly reconcile belief in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God with the existence of evil and suffering in the world?
Lucy: There are many places in the scriptures as well as a library of books that deal with the issue, but the bottom line is that for those who trust God evil and suffering are temporary.
Carl: What about those of us who don't trust the God of the Bible?
Lucy: Your choice, Carl. But who else would you trust? Who else could possibly "deliver us from evil"?
Carl: Couldn't God at least deliver us from suffering?
Lucy: Before I ask you how you could eliminate suffering without eliminating its root cause, evil, let me quote someone who has suffered a lot more than you ever have. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) When Paul compares time to eternity and our fallen world to the New Heavens and New Earth to come, he concludes that there is no comparison. Read Revelation 21 and let me know what you think.
Carl: But evil and suffering still exist.
Lucy: Yes, but not forever. In the meantime, they give us all opportunities to show love toward those who are suffering here and now. That's what loving your neighbor is all about. Some may need comforting or words of encouragement. Some may need food and shelter. Some others, medical help. Some suffer as a result of injustice and unrighteousness giving those who choose to love God's justice and righteousness a firm foundation to act upon them in the world. Evil and suffering also give us opportunity to proclaim that whatever evil someone has done or suffering they have caused others (and we're all guilty) God will forgive those who genuinely turn from their ways to His ways: from "My will be done" to "Thy will be done."
Carl: But God is still responsible for creating evil in the first place.
Lucy: That's like saying that God created darkness when, in fact, He created light. Likewise, God is love (1 John 4:8) and just as darkness is the lack of light, evil is the lack of love.
Carl: Fine. Neither darkness nor evil were created. But why didn't God eliminate evil when it first appeared?
Lucy: He could have. He could have eliminated all beings with free will who mistrusted Him and chose evil over good but then you and I wouldn't be here. Is that what you wanted?
Carl: Well, if you put it that way, I'm thankful that he has waited. But it still hurts. There is still too much suffering and too little love in our world.
Lucy: Did you look up John 3:16?
Carl: Of course. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Lucy: Giving His Son means a lot more than revealing Himself by entering our fallen world in human flesh. It meant suffering the agony not only of physical pain on a cross, but of abandonment by his followers, rejection by his people, mental anguish, humiliation, and ultimately paying the price to redeem us.
Carl: I believe Jesus existed. Isn't that good enough?
Lucy: When you believe in someone, you trust them. Do you trust him?
Carl: Let's get back to suffering.
Lucy: OK. Consider this. "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Has anyone endured more suffering and deserved it less than Jesus? Has anyone shown more love for his enemies when he proclaimed from the cross, "Father forgive them"? Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13) let alone his enemies. What do you think "the joy set before him" was other than the ultimate victory over death and the restoration of a perfect love between God and his creation. Wouldn't you prefer joy to suffering?
Carl: Well, if you put it that way. Maybe I should start being more skeptical of my skeptism. But what about evolution? You still haven't removed that stumbling block.
Lucy: How about next time, Carl. Do you want to talk about the evolution of automobles or computer software?
Carl: Funny girl! I want to talk about the evolution of life!
Lucy: Nanotechnology and progressive genetic engineering? Great! I look forward to it.