When I meet someone new I try to ask them questions. I want to learn about them and get to know them. Most times this goes well. But I know I can, on occasion, pepper folks a bit too much. I don’t think I am alone in this. In fact, in the last few years I have heard people pepper this one certain relatively new acquaintance, Siri, with many questions. Kids and their parents alike will ask “Is there a Santa Claus,” “Do you have any pets”, “Where did I put my keys,” and “What does the fox say?” (Try it.) Siri apparently doesn’t tire of such questions, though she cannot field them all.
We have just begun a series called Five Burning Questions of Faith. You can try to ask them of Siri, but I am rather sure that is not the best source. It’s simply heavier sledding than Siri is used to. In this sermon series we are engaging with deep searching questions; ones that we struggle with or that we or others we know may find as stumbling blocks to a vibrant faith. And as we dig in, we seek to wrestle with these questions from a place of integrity; with an earnest desire to promote thought and dialogue.
On Sunday we dove into “Why is there suffering and evil if God is good?” If you missed it, you can listen to it here… We had some audio challenges so the recording is a little bumpy early on, but please stick with it.
A really short and possible answer to the posed question might be that there is suffering and evil because, out of love for us, God gave us autonomy. And in our capacity as free choosing agents, we chose disobedience and sin. And suffering and evil is the outcome of that free choice – of that sin – on us, and all creation.
We dug much more deeply into the question on Sunday as we looked at John the Baptist’s wrestling with his faith in the midst of his torment and oppression in prison at the end of his life. And beyond John, we noted that some of us may wrestle with this question from a very philosophical place where, for us, suffering calls into question God’s existence or goodness. Others of us may come from a far more personal and painful life experience where we are not able to believe in a God who permits such suffering and evil.
Much revered author CS Lewis was amongst those who, at one time, rejected the idea of God altogether because of the cruelty of life that he saw all around him. Yet once he dug further into the atheism that he had embraced, he came to realize that evil was even more problematic for his new atheism. After much study and exploring, he came to the place where he realized that suffering provided a better argument for God’s existence than against it.
Ultimately, the answer for John the Baptist rested in the life and person of Jesus. That is where CS Lewis found satisfaction as well. And that too is where I believe the answer lies for each of us. Tim Keller in The Reason for God powerfully noted: “If we are going to ask the question why does God allow evil and suffering to continue and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still don’t know what the answer is. However, we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he is indifferent or detached from our condition. God took our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself.”
Grateful to wrestle and question together as a church community,
Associate Pastor for Congregational Care