The last two posts demonstrated the nature of the problem of evil, and how it can be answered, at least logically. The only thing remaining is what has been called the emotional problem of evil. Basically, you can present someone with a logical response to the problem of evil, which may be cogent, but doesn’t help them cope with the traumatic experience which they are going through at that moment.
C.S. Lewis has an interesting quote that won’t seem immediately applicable, but it actually is. He writes:
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Now how does this relate to evil? Well, evil has a way of actually pointing us to the existence of God. For example, if a man were to murder a loved one, our immediate reaction would be that the murderer should receive the death penalty. Let’s suppose that he does. Does that suddenly make everything ok? Of course not. We can never experience complete justice on this earth, but only proximate justice. Now if you have an understanding that God is responsible for ultimate justice, you have a more sure ground to weather the storm.
We may not see the big picture of why things are happening to us, especially in the middle of it happening. Now, personally, I think it is comforting to know that God is sovereign and good. So while throwing out logical argument forms may not help a person who is suffering, having those elements in your toolbox may be useful in their individual elements. Sovereignty in a logical or academic sense may not help many people, but if you were to explain it like this, it might be helpful.
- God will accomplish all His purposes (Isaiah 47:10-11)
- All things work together for good, for those He calls (John 6:28 [29-30])
- God disciplines those he loves (Proverbs 3:11-12)
- God is responsible for ultimate justice (2 Thes. 1:5-10)
These things naturally blend the love of God with His justice/wrath/holiness, and can be a way for you to explain a more full understanding of who God is. However, even knowing the truth of these statements don’t always make the pain magically go away. This is where we are to exhibit the love of Christ to others. We are to suffer with those who suffer (Heb. 13:3), yet also we are to suffer not like those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13). How is that possible? It goes back to our understanding of who God is, and how His creation runs. Theology matters.
We can genuinely be with people in their pain and their grief, and we can counsel or advise or simply cry with someone as the situation dictates, but we do so from the standpoint of knowing how the story ends. In all of life, pain is the one thing we can’t ignore (hence the argument against God), but it is the one thing which is endurable ultimately because God exists. Lewis also recognized this when he said that:
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Yes, evil will happen to all of us (Mt. 5:45), and we will likely not understand why it is happening, and it will be difficult to endure. However, it is at these times particularly that, paradoxically, God is shouting. His existence makes sense of how we know that evil is real and not merely an illusion or a personal non-preference. His existence is also the only way we can have true hope to endure, even when it is beyond our control. Ultimately, the more we are made into the likeness of Christ, the more we notice our response to evil change. As we grow closer to Jesus, we can more and more agree with Charles Spurgeon when, speaking about pain and suffering in life, he said:
“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages”