How can a good God and such a broken world coexist?
‘let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds and glorify God in heaven.’
Every human being at some point in their existence is confronted with this question. One doesn't have to look far before being bombarded with news and stories that break our hearts. In this social media age where news and information is literally at our fingertips, it becomes harder and harder to go a day without hearing about a tragic occurrence somewhere around the world. It seems so contradictory that a good God would allow so much hurt, pain, suffering and injustice to exist. Wars, natural disasters, freak accidents, murders, children being orphaned, the list seems endless. The cherry on top is the knowledge that this good God is also all powerful, and if He is all powerful, why does He not remove all pain and hurt and suffering? He can, right?
Knowing that God can and yet living in a world where He does not, places people in one or more of the below categories at any given time:
God doesn't exist. If He did the world wouldn't be as it is.
Anger directed toward God. He can and yet he doesn’t do X.
‚I don't care‘ attitude.
Complete despair and depression
I don't understand, but I trust God anyway
Those who find themselves in the first category choose to eliminate the problem of unanswerable questions by deciding that the object of all power and good does not exist – namely God. They resolve to live in a world that denies the existence of God simply because they do not see evidence of his existence or rather choose not to see evidence of his existence.
Those in the second category acknowledge that there is a God, but because they are unable to understand what He is like and why He does or doesn't do certain things, they direct their anger and disapproval at him. The people in this category fashion a god in their minds who should behave in a certain way and when this god deviates from their expectations, they are angry and disappointed with him or more accurately, at the idea of god that they have.
The third category of people can be quite dangerous. Not in a violent way but rather in a detached, disengaged, “go with the flow” type of way. What makes this dangerous is the fact that having an “I don't care” attitude brings about desensitization. This means that we subconsciously develop a coping mechanism that cuts off any vital and meaningful connection to the world. When we nurture this attitude, we slowly disassociate ourselves from our fellow human beings and over time become hardened, calloused and unable to feel or have true compassion. This drains life and joy from our lives because we are created and hardwired to feel, to connect with others. We understand the world, navigate through it and interpret it by means of what we feel. As Christians we submit our feelings to the Lordship of Jesus and are not governed by them, but we should have them. If you find yourself in this category, let me encourage you to fight your way out. There is a better way.
The forth category is hard. People who find themselves here struggle to see light at the end of the tunnel. They struggle to sift out the bad from the good; they have one-track mind or constricted vision and only see what is not working, what is broken and hurting. Despair is the result of this mindset, which often leads to depression and when this is not treated it can leads to loss of life, figuratively and unfortunately also literally. Depression is real and I do not have the expertise or authority to speak on it. It is not only triggered by life's struggles but is also a medical condition that should not be ignored. If you or someone you know suffers from depression please seek help, there is help available. Suffering and hardship when looked at apart from the sovereignty and goodness of God is unbearable. Despair is never the answer because in spite of life’s craziness we can always have hope. Regardless of how dark things are/seem, there is always reason for hope, an expectation of something good happening.
The fifth and final category is one that I find myself in but it is a constant struggle to not deviate from it, I know I am not the only one. There are invisible forces that try to pull us into despair, and anger, into having an attitude of detachment and eventually coming to the conclusion that God doesn't exist. There is no way we can fight these forces in our own strength or with amassed willpower.
Ultimately, how can a finite being (man) ever assume to understand an infinite Being (God)? There is no way one can fit all of eternity into the confinement of time, and therefore no way man can fully know and understand all that God does or doesn't do. I am not a theologian, so I will refrain from delving deeper into areas where others are more knowledgeable and proficient than I, but I will say, the Bible presents evidence enough that there is reason for hope. There is purpose in this life, there is cause and effect and there is a time coming when all wrongs will be made right.
The question now is what do we do while we live in the wait? What should our attitude towards suffering, pain and the injustice of this world be while we live this side of eternity, without answers?
Admit that we don't understand or know it all and that this is ok
Believe that there is a God who has purpose and will set all things right, in His time not ours
Be willing to help others in their pain, right where we are, with what we have
Fight for hope. Hope never disappoints because it is placed in the One who can not disappoint.
So how can a good God and such a broken world coexist?
I don't know, but what I do know is that He exists and for this I am forever thankful. The alternative of having such a broken world without a good God governing it is a thought far too scary and grim to even ponder on. If there is any good in this world, if there is any reason for joy and celebration it is because a good God exists amid the brokenness.
In this crazy, broken, upside down world while we wait for its redemption, we ‘let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds and glorify God in heaven.’ - Matthew 5:16
In the waiting, this side of eternity, before evil and suffering are destroyed forever, we ought to ‘do good’ to others, live selflessly with a willingness to walk alongside those who suffer. We live with hope and a resolve to trust even when we do not understand. Yes, suffering exists but so does a good God and this truth anchors us when the tides of life mingled with hardship and pain threaten to destroy us.
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