Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Meme Challenge, Day One: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

(For more on the Meme challenge, see: "Tag, I'm 'It'")

Day 1
On My Biggest Faith Struggle

I wonder why God allows suffering.

There are plenty of good reasons for suffering offered in Scripture: to discipline or to prevent sin (Hebrews 12:7, 11; 2 Corinthians 12:7); to develop perseverance, character and spiritual maturity (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4); to prepare us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4); to provide opportunities to share our faith and spread the news about Jesus (Philippians 1:12); to follow Jesus’ example and thus bring honor to him (1 Peter 4:12-14); and to show genuine faith and thus bring honor to God (1 Peter 1:6-7).

And I know we live in a tainted, broken world. Humanity and the entire world is imperfect because, by failing to give proper respect to God, we’ve distanced ourselves from the perfection that is God. Yet the all-powerful God who made us doesn’t force us into obedience. God wants real love and respect—these aren’t real if they’re not given freely (if you had to pay people to be nice to you, could you really call them your friends?). So suffering reminds us that we aren’t self-sufficient, and it can cause us to consider God.

Still, it’s hard to get my head around suffering because of the simple question, “If God is good (if his nature and character is absolutely good) and he loves us, then why does he allow bad things to happen to us?” Parents allow their children to make mistakes, and they punish their kids when they misbehave. But would a good parent punish their good child? Does God allow bad things to happen to people who love him in order to keep things fair, or balanced, so humans won’t automatically obey God out of fear (“If I obey God, nothing bad will ever happen to me.”)? Does suffering keep our love genuine? The questions go on and on.

I’m actually glad I have questions and faith struggles. If I understood everything about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity, I’d either be a deity myself (and I’m quite certain I’m not) or I’d be lying to myself about my ability to comprehend God. To me, doubt is an essential part of faith.

To ponder:
1) What questions do you have about God and suffering?

2) What is your biggest faith struggle?

Questioning God: Is It OK to Wonder Why He Allows Suffering?

Room for Doubt: The Faith Crises of Bill Lobdell, Mother Teresa, and Holly

More Thoughts on Faith (Or Lack Thereof)

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