How Easter Speaks to the Problem of Suffering

We hope you had a wonderful Easter! Resurrection Sunday is always a steadfast reminder on the Christian calendar that death does not have the last word for those who trust in Jesus. This is really important when it comes to responding to some of the criticism Christians face about their faith, especially in times like these. Some people have a hard time coming to faith because they see the problem of suffering, which is also known as “theodicy.”

Often times Christians can be approached by someone (regardless of their intent) challenging them with this question:

“If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful. If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good. So, which is He? Good but not able; or powerful but not willing?”

Now, before reading on, what would you say if someone asked you that?

Believe it or not, Good Friday and Easter Sunday hold the key to answering the supposed conundrum. Here is how.

First, let’s simply note that the existence of evil and suffering does not logically disprove God. As C.S. Lewis famously said: “The shadows prove the sunshine.” In order to have shadows, you have to have sunshine. In order to have evil, you have to have good. You can have sunshine without shadows; you can have good without evil; but not vice versa. Evil and suffering don’t disprove God, it just points out there is a problem. And it brings us back to our original dilemma: how can God be both good and powerful and yet there be suffering and evil?

The “problem of suffering” forgets to account for two things regarding creation: its origin and its destiny.

Regarding its origin, evil and suffering only exist because God has honored humanity’s free will. Death didn’t exist until Genesis 3, only after Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God. So, in an all-too-short answer to why evil and suffering exists—the answer is simply because of mankind’s choices. Natural disasters, disease, decay, and all the other issues we see are a result of a world that has been given over to disorder. In other words, the current state of the world does not represent God’s original creation or His ideal.

Regarding its destiny, all of creation—and all people who trust in the Lord for redemption—will experience the ultimate renewal when Jesus returns to set all things right.

What God did for Jesus on that first Easter morning will be done for all of creation at the dawn of the Lord’s Day—His return.

Good Friday shows us that God is good. He does not look at the state of the world and say, “Well, that is what they get for sinning against me!” When we want to understand God’s perspective of justice, we look to the cross, where the Son of God stood in the gap at a place where rebels (you, me, and everyone, no exceptions) belong.

We must remember that God weeps with us in our suffering, which we wrote about in a former article on how God’s heart can (and does) break for us and with us. But God’s heart is not only sympathetic toward us, He is also empathetic. His empathy went so far as to actually enter the problem—to intercede—to become the very antidote to it! Jesus’ sacrifice is the most heart-softening act in all human history. The goodness of God shines forth on the dark hill of Golgotha.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Easter Sunday shows us how death has been rendered powerless. Jesus took the heaviest dose Death could give, He absorbed it, and then—rising with the sun of morning—awaken to resurrection life. The hope of Judaism was that one day there would be resurrection for the righteous. But unforeseen was how God was going to bring about resurrection into the current age of existence. Yes, the future promise of resurrection is as set in stone as history itself. What God did for Jesus that first Easter morning He will do for all of creation at His coming! And so, the power of God is not lacking. God did not avoid death, He went into the cage with it and walked out triumphant.

Therefore, God is good, and He is powerful, and we only have suffering and evil on a temporal basis.

The suffering we see in reality is running on a ticking-time clock. So, the dilemma that “God is either good or powerful but not both” fails to deliver when it confronts the cover-to-cover story of Scripture.

At best, it is an objection to God’s timing in the here between.

Before we conclude, it is important to state what may be obvious: that there still is real suffering that exists. Answering the grand question is one thing, something we can do. However, we may not be able to look at particular, specific examples of suffering and explain it now. That is far beyond our paygrade.

But if God is able to take the death of the God-man, Jesus, which was the most tragic event in history—and bring about the atonement of sin from it; then, well, we can trust Him with the mystery of the things we do not understand.

After all, our life-experience must always concede to God’s eternality. As the late J.M.L. Monsabre once famously said:

“If God would concede me His omnipotence for 24 hours, you would see how many changes I would make in the world. But if He gave me His wisdom too, I would leave things as they are.”

May we have the courage to trust God in these times, knowing that His wisdom is infinite. And also knowing that sometimes His wisdom looks as odd as bringing about victory through a cross.

Comment below how God is giving you wisdom and endurance during these difficult times. It may be an encouragement to someone else!

1 Comment

  1. Nonette on May 5, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    Great read! Thank You Brayden for putting a lot of perspective on the question of suffering & evil! Great points!

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