From Salvationist 13 October 2018
WHERE IS GOD IN ALL THIS SUFFERING?
In our frontline service – among friends, colleagues or neighbours – we’re often asked about faith and ethics; David Newstead offers some responses
IN recent years appalling events in our country have horrified us. Terrorist attacks and the devastating fire in Grenfell Tower have shattered the lives of ordinary people. And around the world we have seen the suffering of people who have been caught up in conflicts for which they were not responsible and who have lost everything.
How should we respond to the questions that come to mind, without giving a glib answer?
First, we are not living in a perfect world. Since its creation it has been subjected to a plethora of natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, plagues and famines. Paul in his letter to the Romans reminds us: ‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time’ (8:22).
Second, we must also acknowledge that some catastrophes are man-made, such as the Aberfan disaster more than 50 years ago and the Grenfell Tower fire.
In times of trouble many wonder if God is there or if he really cares. Critics of Christianity often argue against God on the basis of the reality of evil and suffering. But can this really be the case? If there is some moral standard that the critics are basing their position on, then the problem of evil and suffering becomes an argument for, not against, the reality of God. After all, to call something good or evil, there must be an underlying standard of right and wrong.
Does God really care about us? God does care and does reveal himself in these situations, but not perhaps as we would expect or sometimes demand. In his book, The Quest Of The Historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer wrote: ‘He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, he came to those men who knew him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which he has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey him he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in his fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who he is.’
Many are the things I cannot understand,/ All above me mystery I see;/ But the gift most wonderful from God’s own hand/ Surely is his gift of grace to me! (SASB 876)
DAVID NEWSTEAD IS A SOLDIER AT BIRMINGHAM CITADEL
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