It hit me this past week that we often give God a bad rap. I was thinking how we can discredit God’s reputation. It seems like when something bad happens, we blame God. We even blame natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and volcanic eruptions referring to them as “acts of God.” We also tend to blame God for bad things that happen in our personal lives too.
Our recent sermon series “The God Questions” has produced a number of questions related to God. I have been reminded that most people, both those who are not followers of Jesus and many that are; do not have a good understanding of God’s character. This misunderstanding often leads them to blame God for the bad things that happen. This past week my focus was on answering the question, “How Can a Good God Allow Suffering?” Many in our culture believe that God is responsible for the suffering in the world. This view is often the result of attempting to integrate three core truths about God taught in the Bible: He is All Powerful, He is All Knowing and He is All Loving. Many come to the conclusion that only two of these three characteristics are possible.
It works out like this: some believe that God can be all powerful and all knowing, but He must just be uncaring about us and our struggles. The thinking is if God really cared He would do something about the suffering of people. Other might believe that God is all-powerful and all-loving yet does not know what is going to happen until it is too late. Again the reasoning is if God knew what would happen he would do something. The final possibility is that God is all-knowing and all-loving yet He is not all-powerful. Again, if God knows and cares yet does nothing it is because He is unable to do something. These are three very real conclusions that people come to when they try to harmonize suffering in the world with God’s character. The question we need to ask, are these the only possibilities and I believe the answer is no.
The Bible presents a perspective on how God’s character is compatible with the suffering in our world. The suffering is a result of God giving man the ability to choose. When a person is given the ability to make a choice, it means that they have the freedom to choose any option. Now if those options involve good and bad options it means a person could choose a bad option just as well as a good option. The bad options will bring negative consequences and the good options will bring good consequences. The evil in our world today is the result of God giving man the freedom to choose. We see this in God’s instruction to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Later Eve would be influenced by Satan’s temptation and she and her husband would make a choice to disobey God. The consequence is the introduction of death and suffering into the world. The consequence of their sin would change their relationship with God, corrupt the created world and handicap human relationships. So who is responsible for the mess that was created? It is definitely not God’s fault, but Satan, Adam and Eve. The reality is the mess is our fault yet it is God who took responsibility to clean it up. The Bible refers to this as grace!
As we celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday season I would encourage you to join me in thanking God for His grace towards us even though we are undeserving! Happy Thanksgiving. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3)
-Pastor Joe Parkinson