Evil and suffering. No one likes it but we all have to deal with it. In particular, we have to deal with it as accusations against God. And if we are to be honest, we need to start by satisfying ourselves with a good answer to this our common and tragic realities.
How do we deal with the fact of rampant evil and suffering in our world? In particular, when it leaks into our personal world, our personal experience?
In his book “God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt”, Os Guinness offers the following:
“If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt… There is no believing without some doubting, and believing is all the stronger for understanding and resolving doubt.”
“What is eminently reasonable in theory is rather more difficult in practice. In practice, the pressure of mystery acts on faith like sandpaper on a wound. It isn’t just that we would like to know what we do not know but that we feel we must know what we cannot know. The one produces frustration because curiosity is denied; the other leads to anguish. More specifically, the poorer our understanding is in coming to faith the more we need to understand everything after coming to faith. If we do not know why we trust God in the beginning, then we will always need to know exactly what God is doing in order to trust him. Failing to grasp that, we may not be able to continue trusting him, for anything we do not understand may count decisively against what we are able to trust. If, on the other hand, we do know why we trust God, we will be able to trust him in situations where we do not understand what he is doing. For what God is doing may be ambiguous, but it will not be inherently contradictory.”
“In a fallen world, Christians are in the same position as patriots in a country occupied by a foreign power; in “enemy territory,” as C. S. Lewis described it. If they resist, they face not only the enemy but the torturing questions raised by the moral ambiguities in the only style of opposition open to them.
The anomalies and dilemmas of this are captured in the philosopher Basil Mitchell’s celebrated parable of the resistance fighter:
In time of war in an occupied country, a member of the resistance meets one night a Stranger who deeply impresses him. They spend that night together in conversation. The Stranger tells the partisan that he himself is on the side of the resistance—indeed that he is in command of it, and urges the partisan to have faith in him no matter what happens. The partisan is utterly convinced at that meeting of the Stranger’s sincerity and constancy and undertakes to trust him. They never meet in conditions of intimacy again. But sometimes the Stranger is seen helping members of the resistance, and the partisan is grateful and says to his friends “He is on our side.” Sometimes he is seen in the uniform of the police handing over patriots to the occupying power. On these occasions his friends murmur against him: but the partisan still says, “He is on our side.” He still believes that, in spite of appearances, the Stranger did not deceive him. Sometimes he asks the Stranger for help and receives it. He is then thankful. Sometimes he asks and does not receive it. Then he says, “The Stranger knows best.”
“A situation like this is not easy for wartime faith, and talk of the difference between ambiguity and contradiction is apt to sound academic and comfortless. Other questions matter much more. Is God really on our side? How can we tell when he is in disguise? Isn’t it dangerously confusing if he seems to dress up as the enemy? Why does he sometimes appear to be flying the wrong flag? Surely we cannot only trust? Don’t we also need to know? What if we have been duped, deceived, led into a trap, betrayed? Can we trust a God who seems to behave like a divine Pimpernel, popping up in the strangest of disguises, using the most paradoxical of means? Unless he shows some stability or continuity that we can see, how can we rely on him, how can he be counted on? How can we know he is different from the Eastern notion of god that turns life’s reality into a fancy dress ball and human personalities into multi-million disguises and fantasies of the divine? In short, how do we know God can be trusted?”
For it was fitting for Him, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”
“So then, as the children share in flesh and blood, He likewise took part in these, so that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were throughout their lives subject to bondage.”
“For since He Himself suffered while being tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Sometimes you’ll understand what God is doing, He’s rescuing our people. Sometimes you won’t, it’ll look contradictory. He’ll be in the foreign power’s uniform arresting our people but to release them off stage. The stage from which they’ll be released may even be this life itself. You’ll have to trust Him.
Only when the war is over, when victory is won and the secrets are open will you understand what He did. You just won’t know here and now.
But what you do know now is The Cross. And that leaves zero doubt that He is for you and not against you.
He is not only willing, He is able.
“It is often said that after Auschwitz there cannot be a God—evil is so overwhelming that it is the “rock of atheism.” But as Viktor Frankl pointed out, those who say that [about evil] were not in Auschwitz themselves. Far more people deepened or discovered faith in Auschwitz than lost it. He then gave a beautiful picture of faith in the face of evil. A small and inadequate faith, he said, is like a small fire; it can be blown out by a small breeze. True faith, by contrast, is like a strong fire. When it is hit by a strong wind, it is fanned into an inextinguishable blaze.”
“Atheism flounders when it looks evil in the white of the eye. The Christian faith can look in the eye of evil with one hand in the hand of God and come out deeper than before.”
“…Christians do not say to God, ‘I do not understand you at all, but I trust you anyway.’ That would be suicidal. Rather, they say, ‘I do not understand you in this situation, but I understand why I trust you anyway.’ It is therefore reasonable to trust even when we do not understand. We may be in the dark about what God is doing, but we are not in the dark about God.”
Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust Survivor of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
so are My ways higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
“If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because He hasn’t stopped evil and suffering, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reason for allowing it to continue that you can’t know.”