The megaphone of God
C. S. Lewis believed that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (The Problem of Pain). Has he been “shouting” to you lately?
We’ve been discussing the perennial question: How can an all-loving, all-powerful God allow evil and suffering? So far we’ve explored the “spiritual warfare” approach (Satan is very real and accounts for much of the suffering in the world) and the “free-will” model (when we misuse our God-given freedom, the consequences are not God’s fault but ours).
A third approach also has much to commend it: the “soul-building” model. St. Irenaeus (ca. AD 120-200) was a proponent of this approach. In his view, God allows or even causes some suffering in order to grow us spiritually.
The Bible does teach that some suffering comes from God (Deuteronomy 8:5; Job 16:12; Psalm 66:11; 90:7). We know that suffering can lead to good (Job 23:10; Psalm 119:67; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 12:11; Revelation 7:14). Suffering can lead us to repentance (Jeremiah 7:3-7), and can refine us (Psalm 66:10; Isaiah 48:10; Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:17). Pain enables us to witness to our faith in God despite the hurt (1 Peter 2:12, 15; 3:15-16). And so God promises to use even difficult experiences for our good.
However, there are problems with this approach. The amount of evil in the world seems disproportionate to the good it has produced. Would anyone suggest that the lessening of anti-Semitism which resulted from the Holocaust justifies that horrific tragedy? And this view seems hard to reconcile with the existence of Hell, since it does not seem to be a soul-building or redemptive reality.
We’ll continue with our conversation tomorrow. For this morning, let’s claim the biblical assurance that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). What is this “purpose”? “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (v. 29).
God wants to use our suffering to make us more like Jesus. Where is that fact relevant for you today?