If suffering has no ultimate meaning or purpose, then God is a monster. He’s mean, cruel, ugly, vicious, and sadistic. He’s like Sid Phillips in Toy Story—that little hellion who likes to torture his toys, pull them apart, set them on fire, and give them brain transplants. A popular online skeptic writes:
“The existence of such large quantities of suffering, despair, pain, natural disasters such as earthquakes, the death of the unborn, and the immense suffering of lovers, and kind-hearted people means that god is evil and intentionally creates life in order to create suffering.” In other words, God is the celestial Sid; therefore, he cannot possibly exist.
But what if God can do something incredibly good with the things that are bad? Moreover, defining good and evil without some sort of fixed, objective reference point by which the two are distinguished is impossible. Is the difference between good and evil just a matter of the skeptic’s feelings or opinions? Well, who died and left him boss? Why should we listen to him? What’s his authority for placing the dividing line where he does?
If he appeals to the strength of his own logic, as his website boasts he does, we still have to ask, “Where do the laws of logic come from?” The laws of logic are timeless, immutable, and non-material—just like the nature of God himself—the “Logos”—whom the skeptic seeks to deny. No, Mr. Skeptic, in the biblical worldview, suffering does have meaning and purpose, even if in yours it doesn’t.
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, wrote, “In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” In other words, if suffering has meaning, we don’t have to jump off the bridge of pain into the angry waters of skepticism. We can jump off the bridge of pain into the soothing waters of hope. The meaning of our suffering is not always clear, but God has made it clear that our suffering always has meaning.
As such, This message catalogues some possible causes for human suffering. It also highlights some possible benefits of suffering according to the biblical worldview. As Simone Weil has noted, “The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it.”
Ultimately, the greatest act of evil, pain, and suffering in the history of the world took place at the cross of Christ. It was there that Jesus bore the sins of humanity in his own body, mind, and soul. Out of that unique and incomparable ordeal, God pulled the greatest good known to the human race—the salvation of those who would trust in his Son for the forgiveness of their sins.
As Job declared in the midst of his pain, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him,” so Jesus also declared from his cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” We can do the same—precisely because our suffering has meaning.
Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.