Pain and suffering baffle us. Con artists prey on the elderly. Children are killed at school. People commit horrible evil and escape punishment. Meanwhile, tornadoes, floods, fires, and other disasters wreak havoc on those we love.
Why does God allow this?
Some religions try to put a happy face on the question, but a Christian worldview does not. The prophet Jeremiah asked, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jer. 12:1). In Psalm 13:1, David cried out, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Even the God-man Jesus Christ felt anguish over suffering. In the garden of Gethsemane, he said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42).
One entire book of the Bible, Job, is devoted to spotlighting a good man’s suffering. The book of Job might as well be titled God, what the heck? Terrible things happened to Job despite his faith in God. His children died. His business was destroyed. Painful disease racked his body. Job wondered, Why is this happening? God spoke to Job, but he didn’t answer his burning question: Why?
Still, Job never gave in, even when his wife advised him to curse God and die. Author Philip Yancey wrote, “Job clung to God’s justice when he was the best example in history of God’s apparent injustice. He did not seek the Giver because of his gifts; when all gifts were removed he still sought the Giver.”1
In Yancey’s statement are echoes of an ancient approach to suffering, one that replaces anger with humility, and self-pity with compassion.
. . . Counterfeit worldviews say that suffering is meaningless or an illusion and that our best responses are to blame others, numb the pain, or deny that suffering exists. But these views fall far short of the truth. Jesus’s answer is much more robust. “In the world you will have tribulation,” he said. “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Overcome. The word in Koine Greek is nikao (nick-AY-oh). As in Nike, the Greek goddess of victory (and, yep, shoes). Nikao doesn’t just mean “winning”; it means “outlasting the enemy in a way that deprives it of its power to harm.”
Hurt doesn’t win; Jesus has overcome it. Hurt has been met on the battlefield and disarmed of its ability to rob us of what really matters. It’s not that things are perfect. Pain and death persist. But . . . we have been released from death’s destructive grip. Jesus overcame; now we are overcomers.2
This post is adapted from The Secret Battle of Ideas about God by Jeff Myers.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, we’ve got good news! It’s October’s free book of the month, so grab your copy now. And while you’re at it, snag three more books from Jeff Myers for $4.99 each.
The title of this post is the addition of the editor. The author’s views do not necessarily represent those of Faithlife.