By John Larkins
One of the most emotional subjects in Christian thinking is the problem of suffering.
Glib critics of Christ are wont to say, “Well, if God loves me, why would he allow me to suffer?” There are variations of this idea. If God is “God,” then He has the power to do everything. So, when I pray to Him, He should stop my suffering (coronavirus, etc.).
There are many quotes from Jesus, or those who speak for Jesus, that provide different answers. In one instance, someone inquired why people killed in a particular catastrophe died. Jesus said, “There had been no one to pray for them.”
A famous playwright built a play around the concept that, “If God is God, He is not good. And, if He is Good, He is not God.” Meaning, of course, that according to human judgement, He is obliged to do what humans say is “good.” If He does not, then it must be that He CAN not. According to this writer, it is not true that God simply set the universe in motion and lets it go without any oversight. Such a position would be contradicted by biblical accounts such as the flood and Noah or the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites, as well as our own hope for His special mercy in our lives.
God has shown He is very sensitive to us demanding that He treat us in some special way because we deserve His love. We are the ones who do not “deserve.” We only have His love because He takes the initiative by creating us. As a first condition, we must put ourselves in His family by joining His Church (baptism, once it was circumcision). Nearly every encounter with God requires a repentance on our part.
Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” From our viewpoint, we might bristle in anger if asked, “But is it good that you not suffer in this particular way?” Since we only know certainly that we will die someday in some way, do we also know that some other form for our certain death will actually be better than this one we are asking Him to take from us? Jesus acted as if He as the Son of Man was emotionally impacted by Lazarus’s death (which He remedied). One of the shortest quotations in the Bible is, “Jesus wept.” Even so, we can be fairly certain that Lazarus did die, at some time, under some circumstances.
In scripture we see many healings that seem to have required little effort on the part of those healed. But usually it is revealed that the person who was healed was thinking about the Savior’s nearness and power, and a mental prayer seems to have been offered. There are many healings in scripture where Jesus delegated His power to people such as apostles or prophets.
There are still, however, many cases where we humans would to the best of our understanding be worthy of mercy, but healing does not proceed. We have heard that, “the rain falls on the just and the unjust.”
This same experience pertains to hurtful events, like stock market crashes and pandemics. A special situation today is the real danger – so far mostly averted – of especially vulnerable people in nursing homes. All who consider themselves friends of Jesus should pray for His prudential mercy to those in danger, regardless of merit or even repentance, for God does indeed love us. Why? Because He is GOD.
John Larkins was born in Oklahoma to an U.S. Army family. His education was in the Catholic Church and wteaching in the United Methodist Church for 10 years. After 50 years of various positions in federal service at home and in Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, John and his wife Carol live in Gadsden. His formal education includes a BS certified for science teaching, an MBA from the University of Missouri and an MPA from Jacksonville State University in public administration and environmental management. For the past 15 years, John evangelized on the street, door-to-door, in tent revivals, and church situations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.