Monday, December 22, 2014

How can we make sense of suffering?

I have shared in this space before how much I enjoy the writing of Ravi Zacharias, one of the fine apologists of our time.  I listen frequently to his podcasts as well and enjoy them as much as his books.  He is not afraid to take on the toughest challenges to the Christian faith, and in his book Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense he does just that.  In fact, in the book he admits that "The question of pain and suffering provides the greatest challenge to belief in God."

The reason suffering is such a problem for many skeptics is due to what they call an insoluble trilemma.  They make three claims and insist these are irreconcilable.  These claims are
  1. God is all-powerful: He can do anything He wills.
  2. God is all-loving: He cares with an intense value for His creation.
  3. Evil is a reality: Suffering is an all-pervading part of this world.
On the surface it would appear that these statements are irreconcilable.  If God is all powerful and all loving, the question is then asked why does such evil exist? Obviously, at least one of them cannot be true, and since no one can deny that evil is a reality, one of the others must not be true.  Either God is not all-powerful or He is not all-loving.  If either of these are not true then, according to the skeptic, belief in God is irrational.

The trilemma is introduced in the first chapter, and in the remainder of the book Zacharias responds to it and proves that faith in God is rational and that there is meaning in suffering that mankind does not always understand.  As he begins his defense of the Christian faith he asks a question, "Why is it that we finite, self-serving, time-constrained, so-often-wrong human beings think we have all the wisdom needed in which to castigate God and hold Him before the bar of our wisdom within our timetable?"

I have read most of Zacharias' books and believe this one to be one of his most valuable, especially for pastors.  Every week we deal with people who are experiencing suffering of one type or another.  Every Sunday when we step into our pulpits we are speaking to hurting people.  For some of them, their pain is so severe that they are not sure how they will move forward with their lives.  Others are struggling to hold on to their faith and are not even sure they want to.  They question what have they done to deserve this pain they are experiencing?  Where is God?  Does He care?  If He doesn't care about what I'm going through why should I care about Him?  For some it's less painful to decide that perhaps God doesn't even exist than to believe that He doesn't care.

There is a good chance, pastor, that as you stand in your pulpit you are speaking to people who are struggling with these very questions and hoping you will give them answers to those questions.  I believe this book can help you answer those questions and give your people the comfort, the meaning, and the hope they need.

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