Tag Archives: purpose

If God Exists, Why is There Suffering & Evil?

In Uganda poverty and suffering is rampant.  UN statistics place 50% of the nation below the UN poverty level.  One of the most asked questions is, “If God Povertyexists, why is there suffering and evil in the world?”  William Lane Craig was asked this question at the University of Iowa.  His response is quoted below.  I have read it again and again and hope you find it as insightful as I did.  I have emphasized in bold certain segments that were meaningful to me.

WL Craig’s answer:

“There are so many things one would like to say about this profound question (of evil and suffering). Let me just add a couple points. I think one of the reasons we tend to find the problem of suffering and evil in the world so intractable, is Sufferingbecause we just sort of naturally assume that if God exists, then His purpose in life for us must be human happiness in this life. That God’s purpose is to make us happy. And the suffering and the gratuitous pain in this life don’t seem to contribute to that end.”

“But you see on a Christian world and life view that assumption is false. The purpose of life is not human happiness as such, but rather the knowledge of God, which in the end will lead to ultimate human fulfillment and happiness. And there are many evils and sufferings in this life, which I think are utterly gratuitous with respect to producing human happiness, but which may not be gratuitous with respect to producing a deeper knowledge of God either on the part of the sufferer or on the part of those around him.”

“And I strongly suspect that it may well be the case that only in a world involving a great deal of gratuitous natural and moral evil that the maximum number of people would come freely to a knowledge of God and His salvation.   And I say this not simply by faith, but really on the empirical basis of the demographics of the world today. If you read around the world where the Gospel is increasing and multiplying at its most rapid rates, there is almost a 1:1 correlation with countries where intense suffering is Moneyoccurring. And where the growth of the church is moribund, and the church is flabby and the growth rates are flat, is in the west where we are so comfortable and so content. But the countries like El Salvador, China, Ethiopia, countries in Africa – where the Gospel is growing at amazing rates – it is precisely in those countries where intense moral and natural suffering has occurred.”

“So I think that we constantly need to keep in mind that God’s purposes in life are much broader than what is merely conducive to our happiness. His ultimate purposes are to establish the Kingdom of God. And what we suffer should always be seen in light of that greater overarching purpose.”

“That leads me to a second comment that I want to make. That our suffering always needs to be seen, I believe, in light of the cross. Because God shows us in the cross that He is not a distant or grounded(?) Being or impersonal Creator who cooly sits by and watches us suffer. When people ask, when they go through intense suffering, ‘Where is God?’ then we ought to point them to the cross and say, ‘There is God.’ God is a God who enters into our world of suffering, and takes upon Himself the unimaginable suffering of bearing the penalty of the sins of the whole world, even though He was completely innocent. If anyone could complain of the problem of innocent suffering, it would have been Jesus of Nazareth. And though He was innocent, He took upon Himself the death penalty of sin that you and I deserved. And therefore seen in light of the cross the problem of evil takes on an entirely different perspective. j0435912When we see His suffering we now realize that the problem is not how God could justify Himself to us. The problem is how I, filled with wickedness and sin and morally guilty before God can be justified before Him. And I believe that when we look at the cross, we can say to ourselves as we go through times of suffering, ‘If God would go to that extent, if His love would carry Him to those depths for me, then surely out of my love for Him I can bear this burden that He has asked me to bear through this short life that I am enduring now.’ And I believe that this can give us the grace and strength to endure what God calls upon us to endure during this life.”

My comments:

In Uganda, too often, the “answer” to life’s problems becomes money.  But as we know in the States, money will not bring ultimate fulfillment or happiness.   Good grief, how shaky is the world’s financial system?  One hint of trouble, and the markets are negatively affected.  The world’s financial system seems to have the strength of iron, yet the fragility and frailty of clay.

Equip Uganda seeks to provide real answers and fulfillment in life by providing physical answers to life’s needs, as well as the ultimate spiritual answer to life, that of the Truth, found in no one else but Jesus Christ.  The answers are not quick and easy answers.  But they are answers that bring ultimate fulfilling satisfaction and contentment.

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Suffering & Pain

Lyrics to three of four songs about suffering are below.  The best of the four songs in my opinion is Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane.  I have included a YouTube link with subtitles and brief thoughts about suffering.  Excellent video.  I hope these lyrics and video may bring a bit of purpose and/or meaning to suffering:

“I Will Not Be Moved” by Natalie Grant

“Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

“You Were There” by Avalon

and “Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane with a special message from John Piper.  The link to that video is here – it’s a comforting, hopeful message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY

If one or more of these songs mean something to you, please consider purchasing at Amazon or another provider.  The cost is about the same as a cup of coffee and the impact you receive should be greater than a 3-hour jolt from caffeine.  Much love.

I Will Not Be Moved by Natalie Grant

I have been the wayward child
I have acted out
I have questioned Sovereignty
And had my share of doubt
And though sometimes my prayers feel like
They’re bouncing off the sky
The hand I hold won’t let me go
And is the reason why…

[Chorus:]
I will stumble
I will fall down
But I will not be moved
I will make mistakes
I will face heartache
But I will not be moved
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
I will not be moved

Bitterness has plagued my heart
Many times before
My life has been like broken glass
And I have kept the score
Of all my shattered dreams and though it seemed
That I was far too gone
My brokenness helped me to see
It’s grace I’m standing on

[Chorus]

And the chaos in my life
Has been a badge I’ve worn
Though I have been torn
I will not be moved

Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day

To everyone who’s lost someone they love Long before it was their time You feel like the days you had were not enough When you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains Keepin’ you back from your life You believe that there’s nothing And there is no one who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that’s struggling just to hang on Have lost all of their faith in love And they’ve done all they can to make it right again Still it’s not enough

For the ones who can’t break the addictions and chains You try to give up but you come back again Just remember that you’re not alone In your shame and your suffering

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus

When you’re lonely And it feels like the whole world is falling on you You just reach out You just cry out to Jesus

Cry to Jesus

To the widow who suffers from being alone Wipin’ the tears from her eyes For the children around the world without a home Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

You Were There     by Avalon

I wonder how it must have felt
When David stood to face Goliath on a hill
I imagine that he shook with all his might
Until You took his hand, and held on tight

‘Cause You were there, You were there
In the midst of danger’s snare
You were there, You were there always
You were there when the hardest fight
Seemed so out of reach
Oh, You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So there he stood upon that hill
Abraham with knife in hand was poised to kill
But God in all his sovereignty had bigger plans
And just in time, You brought a lamb

‘Cause You were there,
You were there
In the midst of the unclear
You were there, you were there always
You were there when obedience
Seemed to not make sense
You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So haven’t I learned that my ways
Aren’t as high as Yours are
And You alone keep the universe
From crumbling into dust
You are God and though we would
Not have understood You
There You were

Hanging blameless on a cross
You would rather die than leave us in the dark
Every moment, every planned coincidence
Just all makes sense
With Your last breath

You were there, You were there
During history’s darkest hour
You were there, You were there always
You were the Victor and the King
You were the power in David’s swing
You were the calm in Abraham
You are the God who understands
You are the strength when we have none
You are the living, Holy one
You were, You are and You will always be
the Risen Lamb of God

You were, You are and You will always be
The Risen Lamb of God

Is There Any Purpose or Meaning to Suffering?

Before starting this blog, please note that this blog will probably offer little or no sufficient answers to a person who is currently suffering. Having experienced my own oppression, discouragement and suffering, rarely did people attempting to provide answers seem to help. Yet I think it important in times of lucidness to find meaning in suffering since people have difficulty doing so.  Even some agnostics or atheists have used suffering to question God’s existence. In reality and truth, suffering reveals glimpses of a God who has a purpose and a God who cares.

Did you realize or consider that pain and suffering are clearly acceptable at times, and at other times pain and suffering are not? Why the difference? Philip SufferingYancey in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts? quotes philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “It is not so much the suffering as the senselessness of it that is unendurable.”

Yancey then notes the different views of suffering and pain by using a couple examples, NFL football player Merlin Olsen who continued playing football on a bum knee through pain and fluid retention. His persistence and willingness to endure pain and suffering is remarkable. As the fluid buildup got so thick, medical personnel had to almost drive the needle in with a hammer. Olsen was quoted as saying, “Damn it, get the needle in there, and get that stuff out.” His words are a stark glimpse into Olsen’s willingness to endure pain in order to fulfill his desire to play football.

Yancey then contrasts birthing a child with passing a kidney stone – a similar level of pain. A woman experiences the excruciating pain of child birth because there is meaning and purpose, and then may desire to have more children. Yet, there is no desire to have additional kidney stones.

The difference is in purpose and meaning. This is no small issue.

The senselessness of Nazi Germany is often referenced by some as evidence that given the brutality and scope of the suffering, God must not exist. Some ask, “Where was God during that terrible tragedy?” Yet Yancey notes that some Jews (Frankl, Bettelheim, Wiesel) and others found meaning and fared better overall than those who did not find meaning amongst the suffering.

When pain has a positive result or outcome, we might possibly accept it better, but more importantly it gives us meaning. There’s purpose. There’s hope! To lose hope causes a person to want to quit; to despair. Despair is a painful emotion in itself. So, as humans we try to cope. In order to avoid despair, tragedy, hurts, problems, etc., one alternative is to indulge in the present, “the now” with its pleasures and entertainment. Like pain medication or drugs, indulging in the present only temporarily relieves pain and numbs the senses. But like the drug user who desires an escape, while imbibing in the drug, the drug user cares not that the high is only temporary. All that matters to the user is the “here and now.” More importantly the high postpones / defers the critical need to address underlying problems and issues the druggie has.Drugs

I believe America (and the world at large) is utilizing the drugs of pleasure, entertainment, sports, materialism and other riches to avoid the realities of and purpose of life. Rich America is not the only place. This numbing happens here in the slums of Africa, too. Sex, alcohol, drugs, pleasure, entertainment, money, material items, etc. are all desired in order to avoid and/or escape the reality of severe underlying problems – the day-to-day issues of lack of good health, lack of proper food, lack of happiness; and the larger issues which result from a broken relationship with our Creator, such as lack of answers, lack of peace and contentment, along with ultimately despair and lack of hope.

Ironically and amazingly it seems one of the challenges in an increasingly wealthy society is that meaning and purpose fade as life becomes easier, more pleasurable and materialistically driven.

Knowing this, God has provided wise counsel for those who are relatively well and are not suffering very much. Rather than stay busy with life and work, He counsels His people to care for those who are suffering: outcasts, orphans, the sick, fatherless, prisoners and the poor. Spend time with a disabled child or in a slum in Africa – be quiet, that is “shut up” talking, visit and listen, perhaps for weeks. Attend funerals, not parties. Does God work through those who suffer? Does God speak quietly and provide answers through those who suffer? I believe He does slowly, and I see Him working.

What about those folks who suffer to the point that there is no satisfactory answer, purpose or fulfillment. For example, the issue of totally disabled children (IQ’s of 30-40) or senile adults (with Alzheimer’s) who lie in bed day in and day out. Yancey asks the question, what could possibly be meaningful to these people who suffer? Yancey provides an example of an East German doctor who cared for severely mentally disabled children. For years the doctor could not answer that question, until a survey of new trainees mentioned the fulfillment and rewards the trainees experienced of helping others. The children (and their disability) gave the trainees meaning, purpose, fulfillment, compassion, appreciation for life, a different perspective, more tolerance, patience, less complaining, a renewed looked at their own problems, an appreciation for what love can do for people. It gave purpose while the child received necessary care and love.

NOTE: One should not, in my opinion, surmise from the above example that God allows or creates mentally disabled children or causes / allows adults to develop Alzheimer’s for the sole purpose of other people’s own learning and advancement alone. This kind of logic seems myopic and can be quite cruel and calloused. Rather, these terrible conditions exist in a fallen world. It is the responsibility of the world’s inhabitants to respond in care and love, and a result could very well be an insight to life’s broader questions.

Love in a society is paramount.  It should be elevated to the highest standard.  Yet our society is promoting selfishness and self-absorption, similar to drug addicts.  In February 1995 Mother Teresa stated at the National Prayer Breakfast the following reality:  “By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

What messages are we sending our young people – to commit violence and murder in order to live happy lives?

Finally, Yancey also briefly references the existentialist, Sartre’s play, No Exit Drug Paraphenaliaabout three people (two men and a woman), who after death are locked into a room together for eternity. One of the three characters in the play, Garcin, concludes, “Hell is other people.” At the end of the play (after much analysis, attempted sexual acts and attempted murder) the play closes ironically like an addicted drug user – rather than freely escaping the room of hell (which they could have done), the three characters at the close of the curtain agree, “let’s continue on.”

I ask, “For what real and lasting purpose should the three in the play continue on? Other than for purely selfish reasons?” And isn’t that the point? True hell is selfishness. Watch the lives of a drug user who will do anything to get him/herself a temporary high.

Lack of meaning. Lack of purpose. People are not hell, unless the world is all about me. People are not hell until they refuse to satisfy my needs and my pleasures. At that point people start irritating the hell which resides in each of us.

Then again, maybe people are hell, broken in pieces. And God’s purpose might just be to rescue us from ourselves by entering hell in the person of Jesus Christ and saving those who trust, believe and rely on Him. As He saves us, He whispers simple answers to life: “I am your hope, your Outcastfulfillment, your purpose.  As I have rescued you in your sin as a pleasure- seeking drug addict, follow in My steps and focus on those hell-filled sinners, especially the broken and humble of society. In that path of life you will catch a glimpse of who I (God) am while discovering love, mercy, satisfaction, meaning, fulfillment and purpose in life.”