For about 8 or 10 weeks our Sunday School class has been working through a curriculum called “Tough Questions: Why is there evil and suffering in the world?” In this time with war, terrorist threats, and natuaral disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes ravaging coastal communities, there is a lot of material to consider. We have reviewed numerous scriptures and considered a number of questions in exploring this issue. Considering one’s response to the problem of evil and suffering in the world ultimately seems to challenge two things: God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty. If He is good, is He then impotent to stop the evil? If He is omnipotent, is He insufficiently good to provide for the wellbeing of His creation? Reconciling these two seems to occupy a lot of seekers’ thoughts. It also is the source of a lot of frustration and out and out anger directed at God by some.
Today as we talked,we came to a conclusion about the class’ discussions. One’s intimacy with God, one’s own knowledge of the character, power, and purposes of God will determine one’s response to tribulation- his own or that of others in the world.
If one’s discovery of the character, power, and purposes of God leads him to affirm the truth of the promises in Scripture, then he will be able to reconcile these apparent conflicts. God promises in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a future and a hope.” Furthermore, in Romans 8:28 He says, “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose.” Furthermore, numerous Scriptures give us clues about the purpose for God allowing such suffering to continue in the world. Today we talked about Romans 5:1-5. There is a logical flow to the process for how tribulation forms us, for how God uses it to mold us.
If we are justified by faith and have peace with God, then we have grace and hope, and we also can maintain our faith in tribulations because we know that it produces perseverance or endurance in us. Perseverance builds character and that brings about even greater hope so that we are not disappointed by what comes of our lives because we know that God is both sovereign and good.
Another woman in my class said today that God has been teaching her about this business of having joy in tribulation, realizing that it doesn’t mean that the tribulation MAKES us joyful, but rather, that we can maintain our joy in spite of tribulation because it is based on relationship to Christ and not on the circumstances in which we find ourselves.