Religion Magazine

When the Problem of Suffering is Not Theoretical

By Sjbedard @sjbedard

One of the important areas of apologetics is that of the problem of suffering. I separate that from the problem of evil. I consider the problem of evil to be things like crime, war and injustice. The problem of suffering I see as more of what a person goes through personally, whether by sickness, disability or some other change of life quality. Suffering is likely connected in some way with evil, but I am thinking of more the things life throws at us that beat us down.

I’m glad that people write on this issue and there are some great books on this. But it is one thing to reflect on this on a theoretical level and it is another thing to go through the suffering yourself.

I have just returned home from almost a week in the hospital. During part of that time, it looked fairly likely that I might be dying. While I have sinse had some good test results and things are looking better, I am still not out of the woods. However, even in the grimmest time, I really did not wrestle with the problem of suffering. I asked “Why?” but I was not really seeking an answer. Even if God spoke to me in my hospital room, I’m not sure there would be any answer that would make me feel better. I was scared, not so much of dying, but of missing the experience of watching my children grow up. If an apologist came to me and tried to explain why this was happening, I would not have been open to their explanations. I was in a place of desperation where I was calling out to God. It was far more emotional than intellectual. I am thankful that the pastors that reached out to me did not try to explain the situation. They listened to my frustration and prayed for me. That is really all we can do.

What do we do with the problem of suffering? Continue to write on it, but write for the skeptics who struggling to see Christianity as having a place for suffering. But when it comes to people who are suffering, avoid the example of Job’s companions and just show compassion. The truth is you do not know why a person is a suffering or how God will respond.


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