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I can’t believe because of… suffering

Flight AF447 went missing on Sunday off the coast of Brazil. As I write this reports of wreckage are coming in, and the 228 passengers and crew, including 3 Irish doctors, are believed to be dead.

Inevitably questions arise at a time like this about God and suffering. Understandably so—for if God is powerful enough to do something about it, why doesn’t he? Once again this column isn’t big enough for an in-depth answer, and I am aware that many who ask this question do so out of deep personal hurt. This is not merely an intellectual itch, but a cry from the heart.

I would say that it is partly because of suffering that I do believe. I find in the Bible the only credible explanation and solution to the problem. This broken world that we find ourselves in, with its prevailing sense of “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be”, is this way because we are the way we are.

The problem isn’t with God, it’s with us. That doesn’t mean that there is always a direct correlation between a person’s suffering and their lack of uprightness. But it does mean that in a world where people choose to live for themselves rather than for God, we can’t expect the harmony that is promised when we live with God at the centre.

And because the problem isn’t at the level of disappearing planes or earthquakes, but is at the level of the human heart, that’s where the solution is concentrated. The Christian God isn’t uncaring or indifferent to our suffering. Instead he takes it so seriously that he is willing to get involved, not simply to track planes, or to empathise and comfort—although he can and does—but to provide the solution.

At the cross God gets involved to provide the solution at the cost of great personal suffering so that we could, not simply have comfort for broken lives, but ultimately have restoration to a life free from brokenness, hurt and pain—Heaven.

As Timothy Keller puts it, “Jesus came on a rescue mission for creation. He had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us.”

We may not know the reason for suffering—but we know what the reason isn’t. It isn’t because God doesn’t care. To forsake God because of suffering is to forsake our only hope, comfort and the ultimate answer.