“Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
It’s a question theologians and philosophers have debated for ages. I recall sitting in a theology class last year, studying what is often called the “problem of evil.” And to this day, humanity struggles to reconcile evil and God. After all, if God is all-powerful and perfect, then why does evil exist?
Well, my aim this week is not to write a philosophical analysis of why evil and suffering exist. There are much smarter theologians out there who can provide much better answers. But in continuation of my “Jesus Understands” series, I want to ponder a truth that should really shift our perspective on pain and suffering.
You see, Jesus understands suffering.
Let’s think about this for a moment. During the Christmas season, we celebrate God coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. We acknowledge that He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (see John 1:14). Which means He experienced both the joys and sorrows of being human.
The Bible says, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17 ESV).
Not only does Jesus understand suffering, He understands death. After all, He died for our sin.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18 ESV).
Now, this might sound like a Good Friday message. But Good Friday (the death of Christ) doesn’t happen without Christmas (the coming of Christ). And Christmas is a wonderful time to consider the weight and magnificence of what Jesus accomplishes through His suffering. With that being said, let’s take a look at the suffering of Christ on our behalf.
“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over there and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matt. 26:36-39 ESV).
After His arrest, the Bible continues, “Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?’” (Matt. 26:67-68 ESV).
“And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him” (Matt. 27:28-31 ESV).
One of the most convincing responses given to the “problem of evil” argument is to consider the suffering that God Himself endured for a people who would mock Him, ridicule Him, and put Him to death on a cross. All while being fully capable of removing Himself from that suffering and disowning sinful humanity for all of eternity.
But there’s hope. I’m not sure what type of suffering you’re experiencing today. Maybe it’s physical pain. Maybe it’s intense anxiety. Maybe it’s a terminal illness. But my encouragement to you is this: Jesus understands.
And Jesus Christ is coming again one day. Suffering doesn’t have the last word. And when His people enter that new Jerusalem some glorious day, “‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Rev. 21:4 ESV).
No matter what kind of suffering we face, we can find comfort in the arms of a Savior who understands. Why? Because He came as a baby on that day we call Christmas.
“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:5 ESV).