A thought on suffering

As a Christian, by far and away the most common question I get and the most common question I have myself is this: What about all the suffering?

This week a dear friend of mine lost their uncle. Recently some friends lost their baby. Just a few days ago a wonderful friend of ours heard her sister had been hit by a lorry. Life can be full of joy. But life can be quite the opposite too.

What are we to do with this? How are we to cope? What can we say to those who suffer?

Well, the answers are not quick. They are certainly not easy. Thus, we think, perhaps by taking God out of the equation, we can face it head on and get on with our lives? Well, here are some quotes I heard this week.  Take God out of the picture, and here’s where we go. Ready?

“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet” (Stephen Hawking).

“Human beings are absolutely insignificant. We’re a cosmic joke” (Claire Rayner OBE).

“Some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice…[the Universe has] no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (Richard Dawkins).

What answer does atheism give me when my uncle dies, my baby dies, my sister gets hit by a lorry? “You’re scum. You’re insignificant. And while we’re at it, so are your friends and family. Some people get hurt. There’s no evil or good, just indifference, and you’re nothing more than a cosmic joke.”


Are you really going to say that to your suffering friend? Your family who have lost a baby? The car crash victim? The widow? Do you really, REALLY, believe that it’s all indifferent?

Take God out of the equation and you still have suffering. You still have pain. All that’s changed is that you can longer complain about it.

If you’re reading this as an atheist, I’m not saying you believe that your loved ones are cosmic scum. Honestly, I’m not. I’m saying you’re not really an atheist. Because if you hate suffering, if you feel the pain of tragedy and know it to be awful and wrong, then as far as Dawkins and Hawking are concerned, you’re illogical. You’re betraying your atheism.

The Christian has to think long and hard about these questions. Why does God let it happen? Doesn’t he love us? Is he not able to stop it? These questions are not easy. But atheism finds itself on no high ground here.

And so whatever you believe… we are left asking, what is the alternative?

Imagine… just for a second… imagine. What if…

What if you’re not insignificant. Imagine that the bubbling, fiery, inner hatred of suffering and pain that is in your very being is not illogical or stupid. What if suffering in your life is not “indifferent”?

What if God was not only real, but that he knew what it was to suffer? What if there was a God who didn’t say “unlucky” or stay far away on a cloud, unaware of our plight, but who came to earth as flesh and blood to be mocked, homeless, ignored, whipped and killed, to share in our suffering? And just imagine for a second, if this God showed himself as the one person who has not only suffered, but has BEATEN it, by rising from death?

What if he said to you: “Despite the way you’ve rejected me, I suffered for you. I know what it’s like. And more than that, I have paid for your rejection, and now I offer you, instead of death, LIFE. Life forever, with me, free from suffering, with the God who made you and loves you.”

Whether you believe it or not…Wouldn’t you want that to be true?

If you’re not a Christian, and you hate suffering, why not look into Jesus? Why not see if the claims of Christianity are not just wonderful but are actually true? Why not speak to a Christian friend. Why not?

And if you’re a Christian… we have a beautiful gospel. Far better than the alternatives. Won’t you share it?


3 thoughts on “A thought on suffering

  1. Interesting opener and summary on the topic of suffering, inevitably a confusing topic and one that many people, both religious and non approach in poor ways. We need to be careful that we don’t just provide the Gospel as merely a comforter nor prey on one’s emotions to lure them into investigation. For many the incident that occurs is random, just because it hurts to the person doesn’t mean to say that they would necessarily believe it wad significant in the grand scheme of things. One of the ways that Christians can be distinctive and different in this area is to completely approach it differently. Carl Lentz recently preached a great sermon titled ‘A Problem Called Praise’ about this issue. I’ll put it on the SHIFT twitter feed tonight!

  2. Pingback: Where is the Love? – clarification of my talk at AUCU’s Big Event | Joyfully discontent

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