As I waited in the pick-up line for the school bell to ring, my heart shuddered beneath the weight of knowing how children in this world suffer. Some suffer because of the sin of others, from abortion, neglect or abuse, kidnapping, and slavery, hunger and warring adults around them. Others suffer under the cold realities of nature. “Atheism points more to the problem of suffering to justify their denial of God’s existence than any other fact.” – John Lennox.
My young friends have asked questions about this in many forms. My young friend wanted to know about those hurt in tornados and why God let that happen. The problem will never be answered to the satisfaction of all humanity, not because there are no answers, but because sometimes we don’t like the answers when they come.
The bell rang, and soon he was running to the car, carrying his backpack with one arm, since the other was in a cast. “Let me help you with your backpack,” I greeted. “Are you in the mood for ice cream by any chance?”
“All RIGHT!” he cheered. “I want blue ice cream!”
I smiled and began finding our way through the traffic. “Tell me something good that happened today at school,” I said, giving him a chance to decompress.
“I told Derrick about bad guys choosing bad stuff and how God’s going to fix everything when Jesus comes back.”
“Good for you. You’re a good friend for Derrick. What did he say about that?”
“He said he was glad God would make everything right some day so that the bad guys won’t win,” he explained. “But when I told him we were going to talk about tornados, he said to ask you about why kids get cancer, or why he has to take ADHD pills.”
“It sounds like Derrick’s worried about some things. Maybe he’d like to know God better and understand how much God can do. He might feel better.”
“Yeah, but why dokids get sick or hurt when nobody made bad choices?”
“You are right. Sometimes things go wrong with the weather, our bodies, or even animals hurt people sometimes. All those things are part of nature, and God made nature. So we want God to make nature always to be good to us. Right?”
“Yeah! Why does God’s world go wrong sometimes?”
“Well, there are some answers that God doesn’t give us. God’s mind is so much stronger than ours that we’ll never be able to figure out everything He’s thinking. Maybe Satan uses nature to hurt us. Maybe the world got broken, too, when Adam and Eve broke God’s heart. We don’t have all the answers. But there are some things we can know.”
“Like what?” he asked, turning in his seat to face me.
“Well, as I said yesterday, we’re feeling the same way God does when we are sad for anyone that has trouble. It breaks his heart and ours when tornados or floods or fires hurt so many people. If there was no God, then all anyone could say is, “Too bad. That’s just life. There is no hope.” And that would be sadder than anything else, I think.” I waited to see if he understood the point I was making.
“So people that don’t believe in God aren’t sad about the bad stuff?” He was confused.
“People who don’t want God are still very sad about those tragedies. But they don’t understand that God gave them those feelings in the first place. They try to blame humans for making nature mess up. Sometimes they even blame God, and then they say they don’t believe in Him. And sometimes they stay sad forever.”
“Oh….” He was trying to understand. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“I know. God knows what suffering is like because Jesus was tortured and killed when He lived here. But Jesus figured out how to stop all the bad. Do you remember we talked about how God is going to fix everything when Jesus comes back again?”
“I sure do, and I’m glad!”
“The difference between us and the people who don’t want God is that they think that terrible tragedies will always happen and will never stop. They say people will die, and it’s all over. That’s just more sadness, I think.”
“Me, too,” he mused.
“But God gives us three promises: 1) He will help us get through hard times, 2) Even if our bodies die, He will take care of our real Self until Jesus comes again and fixes our bodies, and 3) He’s going to make a new place where we are all together with Him–a new Heaven and New Earth. So we know that cancer, and sickness, mental troubles, tornados and all that will finally be over.”
Now he was quiet, looking out his window without seeing. Then turning to me, he quietly said, “I’m glad God is there.”
“Me, too,” I agreed. “And that He wants to help us.”
“And that He made ice cream!” he laughed. We’d arrived.
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” Romans 8:18-23