Facing the Inevitable
Suffering is a reality of existence that affects individuals and communities. It coexists with order, beauty, wonder, goodness, and happiness. While atheists attribute the universe’s formation to a mindless, purposeless unguided process of evolution, they use the presence of suffering as
a reason to challenge the existence of God with the pretext that a good God “permitting” evil and suffering is unreasonable. The magnitude of suffering at a micro level in tiny insects to a macro level,
the suffering caused by cosmic disasters, diseases, pandemics, and suffering caused by human actions that claim millions of innocent lives, questions the theodicy, the divine justice. They argue that if God, who created the universe, is omnipotent and omniscient, he cannot be omnibenevolent (all-loving) and not stop the suffering and tragedies of the world. While there is no easy answer to the questions raised and quick solutions for the world’s problems, it is important to engage with them in a meaningful way.
Humans are conscious beings constantly striving to make sense of what they cause to happen and what happens to them, especially its legitimacy and purpose. Unless articulated and conceptualized correctly, it affects their attitude toward life. It builds up resentment, anger, and frustration leading to nihilistic conclusions.
While the burgeoning scientific atheism does not propose any valuable answers to the problem of suffering, the major religious worldviews grapple with it on a deeper level. However, as the Bible does, no other traditions furnish a conclusive and legitimate approach to suffering. The Bible presents the problem of suffering, employing powerful narratives that have profound theological and philosophical significance. The Bible lays out three essential truths that help one to make sense of suffering:
1. God takes full responsibility for creating a world that involves birth and death; pain and suffering that affects both wicked and ‘innocent’ people. The case of an ‘innocent sufferer’ is the theme of the book of Job, one of the first books of the Bible that predate the Pentateuch. After the long interlocution between Job and his friends striving hard to make sense of the great tragedy that happens to devoted Job, God reptiles by presenting the majesty and incomprehensible mysteries of nature that gave a holistic picture of reality to Job beyond his suffering.
2. Pain and suffering commenced because of humans’ misuse of freedom of choice, which involved doubting divine justice. The modern skeptics have not moved any further from the reason that led the first couple to bypass the divine law.
3. God took responsibility to display his wrath and mercy through Jesus’ incarnation and death on the cross. God’s righteousness is fully satisfied through his atoning, propitiatory, and substitutionary death. The historic event fulfilled through Christ that encapsulates the totality of pain and suffering is unparalleled by any other religious, philosophical, or scientific worldview. It helps a believer to make sense of the suffering they face as they look to the cross where their Mater suffered and died and look beyond it through the resurrection of Christ with new hope.
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