From Bondage to the Desert – 1.6 The Theology of Glory vs. the Theology of the Cross – 2

1.6.2 God’s Providence in Suffering

When people have unrealistic expectations of God, like being spared the pain that other human beings suffer, they lay themselves open not only to great disappointment, but potentially even to the loss of their faith. But such a naïve and simplistic faith is worth losing, in order for it to be replaced with the robust biblical faith of a true believer.

Sometimes people ask: ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ (This is the title of a famous book written by an American rabbi). Behind this question there lie a number of wrong presuppositions:

  • firstly, it reflects a one-sided understanding of God’s providence for the believer, one that will always result in good and pleasurable things;
  • secondly, it presupposes that there are in fact many ‘good people’ around us, while the Lord himself says that we are ‘evil’ (Matt. 7:11 and 19:17) and the apostle Paul says explicitly, quoting the Old Testament, that ‘there is none righteous’ (Rom. 3:10–18);
  • and finally, it suggests that good people (if there are any) should always have good things happening to them.

It should already be obvious, from what we have said above, that the Christian God does not lend himself to such simplistic explanations. For he says, ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways… As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (Is. 55:8–9).

As we have seen already, although God knows and cares when we suffer, he may still allow it to happen, for reasons that he does not always choose to reveal to us. Yet we may rightly say that ‘no eye has seen, no ear heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Cor. 2:9).

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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