God’s love, and human suffering

It’s one of the most common questions we ask about God, especially after a natural disaster like the recent earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan:  How can a loving, good God allow His Creation to suffer so much?

It’s a complex issue, but the Easter season ahead helps us reconcile these two seemingly contradictory subjects – God’s love and human suffering.

Should we really call natural disasters ‘acts of God’?  How much does our freedom of choice affect not just the morality of our planet, but the geology as well? Why does the molten core and the moving crust of our planet both create and threaten human life? What was the earth like before man rebelled against his Creator and what will it be like when God restores what He calls ‘paradise’?  How can a theology, which includes human suffering, help us understand a truly loving God?

Libraries of books have been written to address these and other related, head-scratching questions.  But one incredible, undeniable fact of history should form the foundation of our thinking. The Creator of our planet cares deeply for every human life.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The cost of this gift was staggering. God watched His marvelous creation become contaminated by our reckless disregard and outright defiance of the instruction manual he gave us (aka – the Bible).

Yet onto this polluted planet God sent his Son to live among us and to show us the right way to live.  Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to take on a level of suffering we can’t begin to imagine.

He was betrayed by his friends, tried for crimes he didn’t commit, stripped and whipped with leather straps tied around sharp pieces of sheep bone, mocked as a pretend king, paraded in royal robes and a crown of thorns, struck and spit upon by the people he came to help, forced to carry his own rough-hewn cross digging into his bleeding back and shoulders, nailed through his wrists and feet, jolted upright on that cross, and left to die a slow agonizing death.

Just before he died, he expressed the kind of love only God could have for us: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Yes, God loves us. While He is not the cause of human suffering, he understands it like no one else can. Fortunately, what he did for us means we can be forgiven and look forward to the day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Rob Buzza is lead pastor at NorthRidge Church.

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