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Source Of All Suffering
If There Is A God, Why Is There So Much Evil?
Last night’s television drama Grey’s Anatomy swept us through a cataclysmic event that rattled the doctors of Seattle Grace to the core.[i] Their fellow doctor and close friend, Callie Torres, was involved in a near-fatal car accident that ejected her body out the windshield. To make things worse, she was pregnant. The entire team of doctors assisted in the surgery of the mother and her unborn child. Some worked on Callie’s brain while the others delivered the baby. Everyone was on the verge of an enormous life-changing moment.
After the surgery, Dr. Meredith Grey joins her husband, Derek, in the hospital elevator. The couple is worn out after a long drawn battle fighting for Callie and her baby’s life.
Meredith confides in her husband saying, “Yesterday at the baby shower, I was jealous of Callie because she got pregnant without trying. And we’ve tried. I get shots. I take my temperature. I put my legs in the air… and nothing.”
“The universe says, ‘Forget you Meredith,’ and gives Callie a kid. And then puts Callie through a windshield.”
She turns to her husband asking, “I mean what the hell is going on? What’s the point? I mean, is there a reason for this? Because if you can think of a reason, any reason at all why the universe is so messed up and random and mean, now would be an amazingly good time to tell me because I really need some answers.”[ii]
Meredith referred to the meanness of the impersonal “universe” as the source of all suffering in the world. It’s the reason why her friend Callie is confined on a hospital bed in a coma. It’s the reason why her premature baby fights for its life in an incubator. In all probability, pointing a finger of blame upon the universe was the political correct thing to do.
Yet somehow, we sense that underneath Meredith’s verbal protest against the universe, it indirectly points to God as the source of all evil. Which is why the question has been asked oftentimes, “If there is a God, why is there so much evil?” In an attempt to discredit the Christian faith, people have asked, “How can an all powerful God allow evil and suffering to exist in the world?” And if Meredith addressed her rant to God, this is probably what she would say: “I can’t think of any reason at all why God is so messed up, why He’s not in control of His universe, and why He is just downright mean.”
These questions have opened another theological can of worms when it comes to the person of God and the problem of evil. And aside from Christianity, every other religious worldview offers up a solution to any soul who suffers. The question is, “Who has got the best answer?”
When it comes to answering life’s tough questions from the Christian point of view, it is best to go back to the beginning. In Genesis 1 and following, God created human beings with a free will—a free choice. God didn’t create us robots or puppets wherein He could push a button or pull a string and make us say or do what He wants. That is not selfless love that is self-serving tyranny. Realize that a loving God created you and me. And the Creator equips the creature with the gift of free will in order that we may freely know, love, and enjoy God forever.[iii] God desires that we love and obey Him out of our own choosing.
In light of this God-given freedom to choose good or evil, “Is God responsible for the evil that men and women do when He created them?” Throughout history, human freedom reduced the good in this world through a wrong series of choices. Free will is the source of evil. Human beings are free to choose to mess with their fellow human beings, to randomly throw their neighbor under the bus, and to be just plain mean to everyone everywhere.
Free will, I might add, causes us to misinterpret or misunderstand our sorry situation. Rather than confess that we are part of the cause of evil in this world, we cry foul and wash our hands of any guilt. And if we’re short of scapegoats, we conveniently place the blame squarely upon God’s lap. We bite the hand that feeds us! We have turned the gift of free will given us into a curse of God inflicted upon us. In so doing, we have come up with this warped idea, this wrong conclusion that states, “Real love rescues from all the pain of suffering.”
Suffering is seen as a threat to face until we see it in perspective. What we don’t realize is that suffering is for our own good. Pain ushers us into the presence of God. The pain of suffering and the presence of God go hand-in-hand. They are intricately woven together. Pain pushes up against God and His purposes for us. God is a God of intention and meaning. God communicates to us through our life crisis, our pain and suffering, and our wounded and broken world.
God took it upon Himself to step down, become what we are, and live among us.[iv] The Creator of the universe made Himself vulnerable. He entered into the experience of our pain and suffering through Christ. And because our own free will drove us away from God in rebellion to His will, God took the initiative and drew near to us. God loved us so much that He gave up His only beloved Son Jesus to die in our behalf.[v] He did this in order to pay for our sins and bring us back to Himself.[vi] Under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.[vii]
Only a Holy God can overcome an evil problem. God set the laws of the universe in place. A Holy God cannot wink at our sin, short circuit the system, bribe the law, and rescue us from our sin. The Just Judge of all the earth plays according to the universal rulebook. Our free will to rebel against God demands punishment. We are found guilty and unable to pay the price for our sin.[viii] The payment of sin is death.[ix] It takes the Holy Judge to remove his cloak of justice, step down from his high court, and pay the penalty of our sin with His life.
The crucifixion was a most horrific, most horrendous execution ever. The crucified Christ was the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.[x] The problem of evil, pain, and suffering has been dealt with at the foot of the cross. The unspeakable evil of the cross was transformed into an unspeakable good for the human race. In spite of evil running rampant in the world, God did not forsake us. God Himself dies in Christ. Evil can never ever have the last word over God. God saved the last word on the cross when Christ cried out, “It is finished!”[xi] His mission to rescue sinful willful men and women who have gone astray in a world of pain and suffering is accomplished.
There are unfortunate souls in this world that do not know of God and his love. These are the ones who continue to live their lives in deep pain and quiet desperation.[xii] It was a grim discovery for the music world when Brad Delp,[xiii] 55, the lead singer for the band Boston killed himself in his home. Delp’s fiancée found his body on the bathroom floor with his head on a pillow and a note that was paper-clipped to the neck of his shirt. He had sealed himself inside with two charcoal grills and committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.[xiv] The note read: “I am a lonely soul.”[xv] In another note posted at the top of the stairs Delp wrote: “I take complete and sole responsibility for my present situation. I have lost my desire to live.”[xvi] In spite of being surrounded by his adoring fans, musical fame, and big hits fortune, Brad Delp was reduced to a lonely soul that lost its desire for life. He exercised his free will to commit suicide.
We were not meant to live alone in this world but to live out our lives in relationship with God for all eternity. What’s amazing is that you can drop in a parachute in the most remote part of the earth and you will still come upon people who are religious by nature. All the religions of the world are human made.[xvii] God in Christ is not offering us a religion made up of rigid rules and regulations to live by, but a relationship where we can know, love, and serve Him with all our hearts. In Christ, we will discover a desire to live in and through Him.
We can have a relationship with God through the death and resurrection of His Son. Now would be an amazingly good time to choose Christ as the ultimate answer to the problem of evil. By your own free will, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”[xviii] Choose to embrace His loving relationship today. Amen.
[i] Grey’s Anatomy, “Song Beneath The Song,” Season 7, Ep. 18, 2011.
[iii] Taken from the Westminster Confession.
[iv] John 1:14.
[v] John 3:16.
[vi] 1 Peter 3:18.
[vii] Hebrews 9:22.
[viii] Romans 3:23.
[ix] Romans 6:23.
[x] John 1:29.
[xi] John 19:30.
[xii] Henry Thoreau, Walden and the Whirlwind.
[xiii] AP Associated Press. Boston frontman Delp dies at 55—Celebrity News—MSNBC.com. Delp, a native of Danvers, Mass., joined Boston in the mid-1970s and sang on two of the band’s biggest hits, “More Than a Feeling” and “Long Time.” He also sang on Boston’s most recent album, “Corporate America,” released in 2002.
[xiv] Yahoo News. Delp suicide note: ‘I am a lonely soul,’ by Katherine Webster, Associated Press Writer, Thu Mar 15, 10:18 PM ET.
[xvii] Religion by definition is “a set of strongly held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by.”
[xviii] Romans 10:9.