The Problem with Suffering, Part 3
THE SCENE IS DESCRIBED FOR US in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus and his disciples are in a boat, crossing to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. While they were crossing the lake, Mark tells us, “A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.” This storm must have been particularly ominous for these experienced men of the sea. Surely they had encountered many storms in the past. But this one has them in a state of panic. Their very own survival was in question.
But while they were in a state of panic, Jesus was in the back of the boat sleeping. With a measure of urgency and with great fear in their voices, they wake Jesus up with these words, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Knowing what we know about Jesus, I can’t think of a more insulting question to ask of Jesus. This is the one “who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
In his book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes, “Christianity alone among the world’s religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and imprisonment. On the cross he went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceeds ours as infinitely as his knowledge and power exceeds ours. In his death, God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken.”
How does this help us understand “the problem of suffering”? While it may not answer the “why” question; “Why does God allow evil and suffering? At least, Keller says, “We know what the answer isn’t.” Clearly, God is not indifferent or detached from us and our suffering. In fact, God takes our suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself.
Some people take the issue of suffering as a reason to question the love of God. Sometimes the storms of life are such that they cause great panic and we feel that God is at sleep in the storm. But our faith reminds us that the exact opposite is true. He loves us enough to step into our suffering world and to suffer on our behalf so that we can have hope even in our sufferings.
At the very least, we have the comfort of knowing that God is truly with us. Take heart, you never have to wonder whether God cares for you. He does! You only need to look as far as the cross!
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