James 5:7-8 – Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Because our first parents sinned against God and flipped the script on God’s original design for humans to live in peace and happiness with God and others, sometimes this world seems just too dark and heavy to bear. Sometimes it’s what’s happening to us and other times, we’re burdened by the suffering others we love are enduring.
If God is over all, knows all, and is a good Father (which He is), it leads many to ask why He allows this suffering, which is the wrong question to ask. Our focus instead needs to be on the realization that God was gracious and merciful to bring us back into His family despite our own sin. As I see it, there are six ways you can approach this question, only one of which is a helpful, hopeful, Biblical response.
- Atheism – “There is no God”
This is the idea that we’re just highly evolved animals that brutalize each other until we die. It’s one answer, but it’s not helpful. This is why many committed atheists end up taking their own life – if they believe that they’re going nowhere and there’s no one who will reward them at the end of this life, then when things get hard, ending their life seems easiest.
- Finite Godism – “God is not all-powerful”
This is the idea that God is good but that He’s just fighting the circumstances like we are and isn’t in control of the entire universe. Those who believe this think they’re praying to someone who can’t do things and who loses in the end. This, again, isn’t helpful or hopeful.
- Evolutionary Godism/Open Theism – “God is not all-knowing”
In this school of thought, God is not all-knowing so He’s just reacting to things as they come like we do as humans. This negates the fact that 25% of our Bible is prophecy, which is God telling us things in advance.
- Pantheism/Panentheism – “God is not all good”
This is the ideology of The Lion King and the Circle of Life, or the yin and the yang. These people would believe that God is both good and evil and when good and evil happen, it’s because it’s what God wants. Why would you trust in, run to, and hope in someone that’s sometimes good and sometimes bad?
- Subjectivism/Pluralism – “There is no suffering and evil”
This is the idea that reality is an illusion, like what Buddhists believe, and that our idea of suffering or pain is just subjective.
- Christianity – “God is not done yet, so patiently live by faith”
This option is definitely the most hopeful and takes into account that God is good, powerful, and is not done with His work yet. Until Jesus returns, we’re still in the middle of this redemption process.
Is there anyone in your life that believes one of the first 5? Pray for ways to encourage and share with them the hope that you have in Jesus.