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The problem of evil, or the problem of suffering, has never been much of a problem for me. Regarded as one of the chief obstacles to the Christian faith, I have never been confounded by the existence of evil and suffering in the world. Being an atheist before I was saved, I found that Christianity provides a solution to evil and suffering whereas atheism just accepts suffering and is extremely pessimistic regarding the fate of the human race; and, I later realised, cannot justify why evil and good really would exist objectively speaking.
But just because I personally have never been troubled by the problem, I shouldn’t as a pastor and apologist disregard those who struggle with it. When I’m out evangelising it is often asked why a good and omnipotent God would allow His creatures to suffer, and among many Christians as well this casts doubt on whether He really is good in three sense we understand it or if He’s really all-powerful.
Many have themselves experienced suffering, loss and injustice and so for them it is an emotional problem rather than an intellectual one. For them, many arguments fall short even if they’re good. Emotional pain requires love, support and comfort rather than mere answers. If my girlfriend breaks up with me and I weepingly ask “Why?!”, my friend Mark could provide me with all the reasons she rejected me, but even if they’re accurate it doesn’t follow that I would be comforted by that. I might get even more upset.
That being said, in this lecture I provide seven reasons why I don’t find the problem of evil and suffering as an intellectually challenging one. It’s recorded at our first “Spiritual Q&A” apologetics class that I hold here at Holy Treasure in Kettering every Monday. Have a look and tell me what you think in the comments!
Written and performed by me. No copyright, spread it on, to God be the glory.
Sand and scorching heat
Bloodstain on the street
Tortured and betrayed
Vision starts to fade
All our guilt and sin
Carries He within
King of light
God of life
Chokes and dies
Land and heavens shake
For the Kingdom’s sake
Demons flee away
Now that we are saved
All our guilt and sin
Carried He within
King of light
Breaks the night
As evil dies
King of light
God of life
As evil dies
I attended a 48-hours prayer meeting a couple of years back in Stockholm, and during a worship session a dear friend of mine approached me, asking me to pray for her so that she may receive the same passion for the poor that the Lord has given me. I was so glad that this was what she wanted, but as I started praying I realized that it would be impossible for her to have the same passion as I have without feeling the pain and suffering of making sacrifices, knowing more about the horrible face of poverty and realizing how many it is that do not get help.
This was why I became an activist in the first place – I realized that innocent people were dying while I was playing video games and dreamt of getting a car and a house. I just prayed that God would make it impossible for my friend to close her eyes to the suffering of the poor, and that she would partake in their suffering.
I don’t know if she ever got the same passion for them as I have, at least she’s not revealing it as clearly on Facebook 🙂 But there and then I think we both realized that this was truly what was necessary for passion. When we follow Christ, a cross is always attached. As He Himself said:
“Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:27, 31-33)
Every now and then the amazing missionary organization Iris Global releases their video newsletters on Youtube. This week’s video covered their ministry in DR Congo, and I was just wrecked by it. So much pain. So much suffering. And yet so much love, dance and passionate worship. Not to speak about the amazing signs and wonders they experience.
I’ve written about Congo before, it’s a country the Lord has put on my heart. It began several years ago when I got so upset hearing about that our cell phones and computers have financed the devastating Congolese war that has killed 6 million people. Thousands of women have been raped, and every day aroung 1500 people die because of the malnutrition and diseases the war produces – half of them children. What does the Kingdom of Christ means in such a horrible situation?
Well, it means everything.
The worship in the video above is amazing. The passion, the love, the zeal – it makes me breathless. Many of these people have experienced things that are unimaginable for me. And yet they do not question the goodness of God, instead they seek it more intensely.
We have now entered the holy week, the last step of lent in which the liturgical year remembers the passion, that is suffering, of Jesus. In my experience, it is not so common among Pentecostals and Charismatics to talk about suffering as something achievable. Rather, our emphasis on healing has often made us think that pain is always evil. And while I am convinced that we should always pray and work to alleviate involuntarily suffering, we should also be ready to suffer for Christ’s sake – and even count it as a joy! (Mt 5:11-12)
After all, we follow a crucified God who told us to take up our crosses and follow Him (Lk 14:27). He told us that we should expect persecution and turn the other cheek when attacked (Mt 5:39). We are also told in the Scriptures that we will experience spiritual trials and hardships (Jam 1:2ff.).
This may seem hard to sync with the Kingdom message of fighting suffering through healing, deliverance, poverty reduction and peacemaking. But it is one of the Kingdom paradoxes – while we should alleviate suffering, we should be ready to suffer. We should not seek suffering or be happy when others suffer, but when we are affected by suffering, which undoubtedly will happen from time to time, we should not interpret it as being abandoned by God but see it as a humiliating experience for us to identify ourselves with Christ.
Many Charismatics who experience a lot of miracles and breaktrough has also gone through deep pain. Smith Wigglesworth, the British Pentecostal healing preacher who raised several from the dead, lost his wife in the beginning of his ministry, and he himself got very sick in kidney stones. John Wimber prayed för thousands of people who got healed, but he died in a very painful fight against cancer. Heidi Baker is living in revival in Mozambique but just before the breakthrough she, her husband and her daughter were very, very sick and they had barely any money to continue.