Hard Questions, Real Answers Part 4: Suffering And Evil
On Easter Sunday, at our morning service, we finished our series 'Hard Questions, Real Answers with a talk called Is Suffering and Evil.There is no talk recording for this week, but in this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
Talk Notes and Summary
Over the last few weeks we have been doing a series together called Hard Questions, Real Answers and we have been looking at some tough questions that most of us ask at one time or another, whether we are church people or not. We have left perhaps the hardest question of all to last. It is a question asked by Christians and non Christians alike…and it’s the question of suffering.
Where is God in the suffering we experience and see around us? Suffering is perhaps the greatest problem for belief in God for both the Christian and the non Christian and just this last week we have seen in Brussels suffering again inflicted by the hands of men committing evil deeds. Where is God?
Maybe you are experiencing some suffering of you own at the moment – illness, grief, unemployment, relationship breakdown, loneliness. Where is God?
One of the things I love about the Easter story is the humanity of it. That here in the Easter story God enters in to the muck and grime of real life and shares it with us.
The night that he was arrested, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his friends, and cried out to God to take away the suffering that was about to come. Jesus experienced unanswered prayer. He asked God to take away the suffering that was about to come and it didn’t happen.
Then his friends Judas and Peter betrayed him – Jesus experienced betrayal.
Then everyone left him to face trial alone – Jesus experienced loneliness.
Then he was tortured and a crown of thorns put on his head – Jesus experienced immense physical suffering and pain.
Then he was led out and people spat on him and hurled abuse at him – Jesus experienced isolation and mockery.
Then he was hung on a cross and felt abandoned by God and then he experienced death.
Jesus knows about suffering, about real life and the pain and hurt it brings. At the heart of the Christian faith is a God who enters into the mess of humanity and in Jesus is a saviour who knows about suffering because he experienced it. This isn’t some kind of aloof, distant, uncaring, non understanding God.
But Easter is about more than that too, isn’t only that God understands, he offers hope. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ life in the New Testament part of the Bible we read an account of what happened on that first Easter Sunday, three days after all that suffering that Jesus endured. It is in Luke chapter 24 verses 1 to 7 and you can read that by clicking here.
The women are told to remember, remember what he told them. That the Son of Man (Jesus) must be crucified…it had to happen – because God knew this was what we needed. But on the third day he would be raised again.
He had to suffer, but he also had to rise again. Because to rise again meant that death had no hold on him. To rise again meant that suffering is not the whole story. To rise again means that there is hope. To rise again means that Jesus really is who he says he is. And this is the wonder of Easter Sunday.
We experience suffering and we see suffering and evil in our world. Much of it can be explained, because human beings have free will and sometimes, tragically we choose to exercise that free will to bring about the suffering of others. And God isn’t to blame for that, and God shouldn’t be blamed for that.
But of course there is some suffering that can’t be explained that way and we have to be honest and say we don’t understand why that happens. We don’t know why God doesn’t intervene in those situations.
But what we do know is that in Jesus is a saviour who knows what suffering is all about and who stands with us in the midst of it because he knows. And what we know is that on Easter Sunday is a promise of a hope that goes way beyond any suffering because he was raised from the dead to show that suffering is not the end of the story.
Questions for Reflection
1. What do you think when you see suffering and evil in the world around us?
2. What about a time when you have been suffering, how did that leave you feeling?
3. When you think about suffering does it make you question God and his existence?
4. Do you agree that because Jesus entered into the world that it means he understands what suffering is like? (Think about the range of suffering that Jesus went through).
5. How does it make you feel to think about Jesus suffering in such a horrific way?
6. What does it mean to believe that Jesus knows and understands suffering?
7. When you read the story of the resurrection how does it leave you feeling?
8. When you reflect on the hope of Easter Sunday what changes might it bring to your understanding of suffering and your response to it?