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Suffering

Suffering

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Published by Don Bryant

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Published by: Don Bryant on Feb 12, 2011
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03/15/2012

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How CanThere Be A GodWhen There IsSo MuchSuffering InThe World?
ByDon BryantPastor, Coastal Church
145 Webster St., Suite iHanover, MA 02339781-871-3442www.coastalchurch.com
People really do hurt.
 
I hurt. You hurt. Evil, pain and suffering are not illusions. No one is served byminimizing, diminishing, ignoring, covering their pain. The lives of young, loved children aresnuffed out by leukemia. Honored and adored parents are ravaged by Alzheimer's disease. Thestability and happiness of families are uprooted by thoughtless and thankless entrepreneurs whowould do anything for a buck. Drunk drivers are criminally thoughtless as they take to thehighways and jeopardize the life of the innocent and unsuspecting. Wives give up all for their families only to see husbands walk out arm in arm with the latest model. We have recentlyemerged from a century unprecedented in its cruelty and inhumanity, where victims of tyrantslike Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Tse-tung are numbered almost 100 million. ¼ of Africa willdie of AIDs. Today one thousand million people in the world lack the basic necessities of lifeCan you be human if you've never wondered, Why didn't God stop it? Can there, in fact, be a God if there is so much suffering? The fact of suffering poses the biggest single challenge to belief in the existence of God, or, at least, a good God whom we can worship, adore and serve - aGod whom we can like, much less love. It is the immediate question on the lips of the skeptic. Itis the deepest disappointment in the heart of the sufferer. It is the weakest link in the lives of many professed Christians whose faith wobbles when pain comes in the door.There's two ways to ask these questions: from the head and from the heart. I want tomake contact with the way you think as well as the way you feel. The two are not unrelated - likewhen a doctor understands how a wound feels but also has enough science and useful knowledgeto actually make a contribution toward healing. Thought is important, because thought contactstruth. It opens our inner eyes to the light. God is truth. God is light. Therefore thought is alifeline to God. The head demands truth. We are like a patient in the hospital.
 
"Tell me the truth,Doc. Is there hope? Give it to me straight. Don't say things just to make me feel better." Wedon’t want relief through silly lies, half-truths and evasions. Real relief in order to be relief is based on (to be redundant) real truth.But we also ask this question from the heart, much like a jilted lover asks why someonewho was supposed to love them is now strangely absent. For suffering is a double hurt. The firstis the pain itself - the leukemia, the divorce, the lost job, and the list goes on. The second is thesense no one is answering the phone. We feel a1one, that somehow behind everything is a betrayal. That is its own kind of hurt. As CS Lewis recounts, there was a time he did not believethat God existed. And he was mad at him for it. Where is God when I hurt so bad?Since the problem is real, the solution must be real. God must do something, not
 
 just sitthere, not just say something. He must not just explain. He must change things. The boy with the broken leg is not comforted by the idea of health. Nor is he comforted by an explanation abouthow legs get broken. The only thing that will do is for the broken bone to heal. So, once again, Iask the question, What has God done?The short answer is: Jesus Christ. Let's call it the Jesus solution. But I am jumping ahead.I don't think you will let it go at that. I didn't guess or even wish that you would. But I do wantto be up front with you. I am going to get around to Christ and the Good News He announcedand then became for us. After all, I am a pastor. I am not a psychologist. Knowledge of manalone is not enough.. We are, after all, not made in our own image but in the image of God.
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 Nothing about us can be ful1y understood without going beyond the image to the thing imaged.Or in this case, a Person.I offer you four propositions. Each one is true. Each one is necessary. And there is nocontradiction between them. They are all taught by the Bible. Christians have far all time held toeach.1. God exists2. God is all-powerful3. God is all-good4. Suffering existsPeople have attempted to "solve" the problem of suffering by denying one or more of these:1. God doesn't exist because evil exists - the position of the atheist.God by definition is all-powerful and all-good. If suffering exists, it clearly proves that God cannot exist. Case closed.2. God exists but is not all-powerful therefore evil exists - the position of Rabbi Kushner in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good PeopleGod would like to help, Rabbi Kushner writes, but he isn't capable of solving allthe problems in the world. "Even God has a hard time keeping chaos in check," hewrites. What problem this solves I do not know. I am left with a God who can donothing but pity me. Pity him!3. God exists but is not good; therefore, evil exists - the position of Satanists and pantheists (those who believe the world and god are an identity; god is simplyeverything)Satanists believe in a power for evil that is equal to the good. Pantheists believethe same but with a twist - what is, is. Just another way of saying the same thing.God includes the good, but also the bad. Evil exists because God exists.4. Evil does not exist - the position of Christian Science and BuddhismTherefore, there is really no problem at all. Our job is to do the mental gymnasticsso that what appears to be a problem becomes, in fact, no problem at all.Christianity alone holds that all four of the propositions are true, in the same way and atthe same time. It teaches that evil and suffering do not ultimately contradict the existence of aGod who is worthy of our trust, love and worship. But to get there we have to follow clues.Yes, clues. If we had absolute proof instead of clues, then you could no more deny Godthan you could deny the sun. God gives us just enough evidence so that those who want him canhave him. And He gives just enough space so that those who don't want Him can find a "reason"to walk away. Are you willing to look at clues rather than total answers? Don't forget that trueanswers might be so mysterious and deep that we couldn't get it all at once. It might be like a
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