The question of the goodness of God often comes up in the on-going conversation between Christians and Atheists. A simplified explanation of the Atheist’s argument is that if God was good there would be less suffering and pain in the world. A good God, like a good parent, would want to remove as much suffering as possible from his children. And since God, from the Christian perspective, is all-powerful, He would remove all suffering.
TO PROCLAIM THE GOODNESS OF GOD IN THE FACE OF
GREAT SUFFERING IS A PROFOUND DECLARATION OF YOUR FAITH
But He doesn’t. Empirical evidence shows us that our world is filled with pain. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy follows disasters around the world and lists for the week of August 23, flooding in nine countries; the earthquake in Haiti followed by hurricane Grace; wildfires in the United States, Canada and other nations around the world; and the continued spread of the coronavirus.
The United Nations reports famine in four countries affecting over 500,000 people with another 41 million teetering on the very edge of famine. That’s compared to 27 million just two years ago.
Each of these tragedies resulted in death, displacements, and despair.
And that’s just one week. With a new week comes new suffering.
Multiply that out by the weeks in a year, the years in a decade, the decades in a century, and you begin to get an idea on the extent of suffering that goes on in our world.
Notice that most of the reasons for the world’s suffering are not the result of the actions of man (famine as a result of war is the exception). They are the result of what we like to euphemistically call “acts of God.”
If these are indeed acts of God, they are not, in our normal way of thinking, the acts of a good god!
So why do Christians continue to insist that God is good?
Our fundamental reason for believing that God is good is because the Bible says that He is good (Psalm 118:1, Matthew 19:17) and we believe that the Bible is God’s revelation to us of who He is. For us it’s a matter of faith.
Another reason that we believe in the goodness of God is because our ultimate suffering is not physical, it is spiritual. In fact there is no comparison between the two. If we could only understand how great our spiritual suffering is, we would not be so concerned with the sufferings of this physical life. The Apostle Paul expressed it like this: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
A third reason we believe that God is good relates to our limitations. We are the creature not the creator and therefore we are limited in every area of life. It’s easy for us to comprehend our physical limitations but we fail to grasp the same limitations when it comes to our intellect. We think we have all the answers.
We don’t. We are as limited in our understanding and knowledge as we are in our physical abilities.
That means that we cannot possibly understand the ways of God (Isaiah 55:8). Is it possible that God can be good and still not remove all of our suffering and pain? That God sees something good in our suffering? That He can use suffering for a higher purpose in our lives? That God can include suffering, even on an extreme scale to accomplish His will and purpose in our lives and in the world?
I believe the answer to these questions is affirmative. God is operating on another level.
These are answers that will probably not be acceptable to the non-Christian because they are answers that are based on faith. They require the sight of spiritual eyes that have been opened by the grace of God.
But for the Christian, they are enough, even when we don’t understand.
To proclaim the goodness of God in the face of great suffering is a profound declaration of your faith.
Stay in the Word