You’ve wondered about this, I know you have. Me too. In a world filled with mass shootings, natural disasters and entire populations who are displaced, it’s an evergreen question.
I am often asked to recommend good resources for discipleship. This summer I was delighted to discover Jenny McGill’s new book Walk With Me: Learning to Love and Follow Jesus. Jenny thoughtfully guides us through the basic beliefs Christians hold and what it’s like to live as a Christian as well as the spiritual habits Christians develop. I so appreciate the accessible format that makes it easy to take a new believer (or yourself!) through the essentials of our faith.
I’ve invited Jenny to my online home today to share her thoughts on the toughest subject of all: the problem of pain. Welcome!
“It’s important in answering this question to consider what explanations other religions offer. How would atheists respond? Is our heartache in life random and a process of natural selection? Is our suffering a result of our desires, according to Buddhism?
According to Christianity, no one is good (Psalms 14:1–3; 53:1–3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10–12, 23). Second of all, perhaps we’re asking the wrong question altogether. Why don’t we ever ask the opposite question:
Why do good things happen to bad people?
This may be the harder question to answer. People from other religions address why evil and suffering pervade the world, but do they explain this: how does good exist? From where did it come? Who are we? Why do we deserve good necessarily? But back to the original question.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Perhaps another question to ask is, “Why do people experience pain, suffering, grief, death, and injustice?” The triune God answers this through the whole of Scripture. Part of the answer is this: we—we—rebelled against God’s order. Against God. I get stuck on imagining our audacity to do such a thing, and each of us still do it every single day (James 1:13–15; 3:14–16). For example, some choice comes to you, whether to lie on this application, or withhold something from someone illegitimately, or to entertain a certain thought. Someone or something prompts us to stop and reconsider. Then we proceed to intentionally do what we know is wrong. That is how bad things happen…to people who do bad things.
Another part of the answer is this: some angels rebelled against God’s order, chief among them, Satan (Revelation 12:7–13). So other spiritual forces of evil are lurking to lure us into traps that we willingly and/or unwittingly walk (Ephesians 6:10–17). Rebellion has caused a chaotic, cosmic war here, fantastic and incredible. God, in fact, went to great lengths to give us an answer, even if we do not grasp it fully.
Go to YouTube, look up “Ravi Zacharias,” and watch a couple of his clips (For example, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it7mhQ8fEq0). Ravi Zacharias grew up in India, converted to Christianity, and immigrated to Canada and then the U.S. He shares compelling explanations to this question. Nabeel Qureshi, who converted from Islam, also describes his first story of suffering (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psrvQZj68h4).
Remember, only God is intrinsically good (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19) and can be trusted, even as we struggle to find answers.
Filled with hope,