One question seems to come up the most when I talk to people about the Christian faith: ‘How can you believe in God when there’s so much suffering in the world?’
Recently, it’s felt like there’s an increasing amount of suffering going on. It’s been pointed out that modern communication makes us aware of more tragedies, and far more quickly.
And, it’s not just ‘out there’ or ‘over there.’ I meet so many people that have been through, or are going through, some really tough times.
So how can Christians believe in a good God?
It’s been said before – and it’s certainly true – that there aren’t easy answers.
So instead of complete answers, here are some things I think about when I’m asked this question...
The Bible doesn’t whitewash over the problems in the world. From the beginning, the story is of a good world that has been spoiled. That’s what I see around me. Plenty of good that people contribute to, and yet some terrible acts of evil. We are all capable of selfishness, unkindness and causing hurt. But, the Bible also describes a future where this pain and suffering will come to an end.
Believing in God helps me to understand why some of the suffering feels so unfair. After all, if everything is here purely by random chance, why does it feel like it shouldn’t be like this? Again, my faith tells me that it’s right to feel that it shouldn’t be like this. Parts of the Bible even give space to people who feel that life is unfair and say so to God.
The third thing is that I believe God entered into the world to bear that hurt and suffering. I don’t believe in a distant God who doesn’t do anything about it. Instead, we’re challenged to see that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. We’re called to believe that God’s answer was to send his son, Jesus, to die in our place, for the things we’ve got wrong. He doesn’t avoid the reality of suffering but meets it head-on for us, as one of us. In doing so, he opens up the way to a new future, sharing in his new life.
I’m not going to pretend that those three ideas answer every question about suffering, but I hope you find them thought-provoking.
Often, though, I’ve found that the best response to suffering isn’t words at all – it’s our love, our time and our presence with those who are going through it.
Rev Tom Robson, Vicar of All Saints, Wick and St Mary Magdalene, Lyminster
• The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, takes place on tomorrow (September 29). Two events in Littlehampton this year are at All Saints, Wick (9,30am to 1pm) and St Mary’s Church Hall, Church St (10am to 4pm).
• Got questions about life? Want to know more about the Christian faith? Why not join the new Alpha course at Littlehampton Baptist Church in Fitzalan Road? It runs on Thursdays, starting today, for eight weeks. For more information call 01903 717961. All are welcome, and it’s free!
• Littlehampton Quakers are planning two events to mark National Quaker Week and the theme ‘Being a Quaker in Turbulent Times’. A Meeting for Shared Lunch is on Wednesday, October 4, at 12.30pm with a discussion on how to keep faith in turbulent times. An art exhibition and sale on the theme of ‘Turbulent Times’ takes place on Friday and Saturday, October 6 and 7, from 10am to 1pm. Free entry with coffee and cake available. Both events at Friends Meeting House, Church Street, Littlehampton.
• Come and hear about the exciting work of London City Mission at Parkside Evangelical Church, St Flora’s Road, Littlehampton, BN17 6BD, on Wednesday, October 11, at 7pm. The speaker will be Tim Spring, who has worked with the Turkish and Kurdish communities since 1990. All are welcome.