Why doesn’t God do something? Part 3

Barriers plus.001

Thursday I continued my reasoning through the reality of suffering and the existence of a good, loving, and all-powerful God. You can read Part 1 here. In Part 2, I argued from the doctrine of free will, a proper exposition of which would surely require more than a few blog posts. But please read on for an interesting perspective from C.S. Lewis.

As I wrote about in my previous post, oftentimes God doesn’t intervene to prevent suffering because doing so would override the choices he has given us the freedom to make. But what about so-called “natural evils” like illness or weather-related injury or death? Might they actually have something to do with our free will as well?

In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis argues that a predictable, stable world with fixed laws is necessary for man to effectively exercise his free will. Because if God was consistently altering the natural laws to prevent evil and suffering, we would not be able to function properly. It would make it virtually impossible to freely operate in our environment. And, “such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void.” (1)

This doesn’t mean that God never intervenes to prevent evil or pain. I’m certain that he does. But, “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” (Italics mine)(2)

So suffering is an inescapable reality of our current existence. Yet God’s justice and mercy are not thwarted as a result, because our existence in these physical bodies is temporary, but our existence as spiritual beings is eternal. And God has promised that those who suffer undeservedly in this life will receive great rewards in heaven.(3)  One of my favorite Bible verses contrasts the near weightlessness of our trials in this life relative to the eternal blessings awaiting us in the next: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

shutterstock_136188104The biblical book of Job has some things to teach us about suffering, and I wrote previously here about that. One of those lessons is that God generously compensates us for innocent suffering. Imagine you knew for a fact that those who suffer innocently in this life gain tremendous eternal rewards in the next that are far greater than those received by individuals who have not so suffered. Wouldn’t many if not all of us be willing to suffer, and even want to suffer to be guaranteed those rewards for eternity? It might be compared to enduring the pokes and needle pricks at birth in exchange for a lifetime without pain, sorrow, or want.

Finally, instead of shaking our fist at God because of our own trials and the suffering of others, we should be venting our anger and frustration at the sin in our own lives and in the nature of man, which surely is the primary reason why we suffer. We need to come out from our hostile position, lay down our arms and surrender. Paradoxically, this is the only way we can gain the victory…over sin and over suffering.

Ever since my friend told me about her niece, I’ve been wondering how I would have answered her question. I believe now I would say something like this: I don’t know exactly why God didn’t save you from your father’s abuse, but here’s what I do know…he loves you even more than I do and he hates what your father did to you more than I as well. God created us to be in a loving relationship with himself, so he gave us the freedom to choose to obey him or not, to love him or not. Because without the freedom to refuse him, we have no freedom to choose him. And only love freely given, by an act of our will, is true love.

Therefore, God cannot prevent all the sinful choices we make, even grave immoralities like what your father did to you, without overriding the free will he has given us. He will judge your father someday, and you can take comfort in knowing that he will surely bless you for all that you have had to innocently endure, in even greater measure than the sum of your suffering. In the meantime, you can show love to God by submitting to him for healing and asking him to help you forgive, choosing to allow the suffering to make you strong instead of weak, and compassionate instead of vengeful. And reaping good from the evil that was sown. Then, and only then, will you gain the victory over your father’s abuse and your own inclination to despair. God is with you and will help you. And so will I.

1 Lewis, C.S., The Problem of Pain, pg. 24
2 Ibid., 25
3 Matthew 5:11-12
Most of this post was originally published in October 2013.