It is one thing to give a theoretical answer to the problem of suffering that is intellectually satisfying. It is another to look into the face of a sufferer and give that same answer. It will likely be anything but satisfying.
A distraught father asks, “Why were my wife and children killed on their way to church by a drunk driver who just happened to veer out of control at that precise second? Why didn’t God intervene? Why didn’t He cause my wife to forget something as she was leaving the house, altering her course by a couple of minutes and thereby saving her life and the life of our kids? Why?”
Will it help this father to explain that God gives us free will, that He allows people to make choices for good or bad, and that sometimes, those choices negatively affect others? Will this ease the pain? Will this help him trust in a loving Father? Surely he, as a father, would not allow something like that to happen to his children if he were in control.
On the fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001, my wife’s sister called her, asking, “Didn’t Douglas work in the Twin Towers?”
Douglas was their brother, born to the same father, and they knew he had worked there in the past. But, it turns out, he had not worked there for some time.
Tragically, he was in the Twin Towers on that day for a special trade show, never returning home to see his wife and children again.
Why was he there on that particular day? And why were others, seemingly providentially, not there on just that day? Why?
In 2010, at Ohio State University, I debated professor Bart Ehrman on the question, “Does the Bible Provide an Adequate Answer to the Problem of Suffering?”
Professor Ehrman is known in academic circles as a textual scholar of the Greek New Testament. But in popular circles, he is known as a prominent agnostic and bestselling author.
Interestingly (and, to me, sadly), he was once an evangelical Christian, having studied at well-known evangelical institutions before losing his faith.
What caused him to fall away?
It started with questions that arose in his mind about the accuracy of the New Testament, but this simply caused him to switch to a non-evangelical expression of Christian faith, one that he felt was more in harmony with his studies.
It was, Ehrman relates, the problem of suffering that caused him to lose his confidence in God. And he is certainly not alone in that category. How many others have been devastated by that simple (and apparently unanswerable) question of, “Where was God when I needed Him the most?”
Ironically, it is suffering that often draws people to God, as they realize they have nowhere to go but to Him. And He becomes their refuge, their comfort, their hope.
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SOURCE: Charisma News