What a timely message in light of the present devastation in Oklahoma.
Excerpted from Stefanie's blog:
The biggest problem Keller says for most non-believers is the existence of evil and suffering in the world. A long-standing argument against God is, If there is a God, and He is good, how could He allow pointless evil? The subtle premise in this statement is that their definition of "pointless" = "pointless to me". Keller describes it as, "...we see lurking within hard-nosed skepticism an enormous faith in one's own cognitive faculties.... This is blind faith of a high order."
Keller uses the example of Joseph - and the multiple years he spent in slavery and prison prior to his ascension to unimaginable power - to demonstrate our flawed and minimal understanding of good and evil. In the midst of Joseph's trials, all we would see would be a person suffering undeserved evil and years of torment for no rhyme nor reason. Because of the historical perspective provided in the Bible, we see that God used these trials and tribulations to not only redeem all the years Joseph had lost, but to use him to save an entire nation from the worst famine in Egyptian history.
"If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn't stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can't know. Indeed, you can't have it both ways." [p.25]
The very entity that people deny because of suffering and evil is the same God of Christianity who identifies most with suffering and evil. In Christianity, God became man and suffered the same ills, pains and sorrows that define human experience. And finally, He suffered a separation from His Father that we cannot comprehend. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus maintained a perfect unity with the Father that existed from the beginning (see John 1 and Genesis 1:26). The fact that He was willing to suffer the agony of that lost fellowship not only demonstrates His abundant love for us but reveals His first-hand experience with suffering. Jesus is not an unaffected being without human understanding. Jesus' separation for the Father was "... eternally unbearable." [p.29]
New Testament scholar Bill Lane says of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Jesus came to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found hell rather than heaven opened before him, and he staggered."[p.30] Jesus' cries on the cross of "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" are cries of an incredibly intimate nature and reflect how deeply the loss of relationship with God affected Him. His final words were not reflective of physical pain, but of His spiritual agony.
"God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that He was willing to take it on Himself." [p.31]
But knowing that God suffered with us and for us is still not enough for many. They want to know that there is a reason and a purpose for the injustice of their suffering. They want a remedy so that others will not have to endure the same. Christianity reveals there is an ultimate justice: "The Biblical view of things is resurrection -- not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted." [p.32] Keller explains Christianity is unique because the God we serve experienced suffering and evil personally. And through His resurrection, He conquered both completely, leading to ultimate joy and peace through belief in Him.
Question: Can you remember a time you endured suffering or experienced evil that turned out for good?
When I think of suffering and beauty rising from ashes, I always think of Joseph (Gen 30-50)...and Jesus.
It is a natural tendency to ask "Why?" when tragedy strikes. I've even heard, "How could that happen to her? She's such a good person!"
In all the suffering that Joseph endured, his response was more like, "How can I most glorify God in light of my present circumstances?" He didn't pout or whine. He grew through affliction. Clearly, human hands meant harm for Joseph, repeatedly. But God had other plans. Joseph had dreams, but he couldn't see the future to know he would ultimately rule Egypt.
When it comes to 'good,' there is no one better than Jesus! He was beaten and murdered on a cross. If there is one person who is 'good enough' to escape tragedy, it is Jesus!
And so...if God was willing to take such suffering upon Himself, I recognize that I am not exempt from pain and suffering. In my limited vision I cannot always see the meaning, but in my tiny faith I know He will be glorified.
The most painful thing I've endured was when someone very close to me rejected the idea of us adopting the first time, and then rejected our child. Rejection came in the form of hurtful words and actions, spoken in front of our child. I tried to blow it off; I tried to extend grace; I tried talking it out. Ultimately, in an effort to protect all my children from such hatred, I gave an ultimatum: stop the hatred or you can no longer see my family. Heartbreak followed the pain. Within a few months, I was so convicted of turning my back on this person. Of course, I didn't feel my children needed to be exposed to the pain, but I did believe I had walked out on my promise to God: to be a witness for Him and love the unlovely. I made a surprise visit, alone, to see this person to begin the restoration process. Oh.my.goodness, it was hard. But I was reminded of how much grace God extends to me, moment by moment. All the hurt I cause Him, and He patiently pursues me, flaws and all.
Within months, our relationship was fully restored, this person very dear to me apologized and loved all my children. And 5 years ago, this person accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. To God be glory!!!
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
2 Cor 4:17