Is God Good and All-Powerful?
God’s character and sovereignty is first and foremost incomprehensible (Isaiah 55:8-9). We cannot comprehend what it means to be all-powerful, let alone what it means to be all-powerful (Job 38:2-12). In my mind, as well as many others, all-powerful means being able to do anything at a moment’s notice or a snap of a finger. A modern day example could be Thanos in the Avengers movie. If you recall in the movie, this Marvel Villain has the ability with the infinity stone gauntlet to snap his fingers and annihilate half of the human race and all living creatures. If God has similar if not more power, why does he not simply snap his finger and we are all saved? Or perhaps stop the slavery of millions of human beings each day, or the thousands that starve to death each day? Or stop a pandemic?
If God is “good” and not evil why does evil even exist? Perhaps we do not have a complete and clear understanding of what God’s goodness is. Scripture is clear that no one does good (Romans 3:10-12). God has chosen to limit his all-powerfulness (John 10:18, Philippians 2:7). In fact, he has empowered us to be in partnership by giving us free-will (Genesis 1:6) . He even allows partnership in decision making (Exodus 32:9-14, 1 Kings 22: 19- 23). Unfortunately, when he allows this freedom of choice, suffering and pain may result causing disastrous consequences that not only affect us or those only in our vicinity, but entire societies (2 Samuel 11). The tragedy of a fallen world is also a reality and fact that hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, famines, flooding, and pandemics all destroy human lives. This causes many to question their faith in God, especially when a random tragedy occurs such as a pandemic, which is not the direct cause of one’s bad decision.
How do we resolve this tension of an all-powerful, good God and evil being ever present? There is no right answer or resolve; God is all powerful and knows all things (Ephesians 3:20), yet he still allows terrible evil things to happen. One truth we can camp on is the hope that God offers us. Jesus' promises share the following troubling yet comforting words with us in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
To be able to be in the unknown, grief, bitterness and anger can help us begin to heal and create meaning out of tragedy/suffering, but in the middle of it we do not want to hear any platitudes or “at least.” We simply want to be. As a believer walking with someone who is suffering, and allowing the questioning of God is more important than any of our advice (Romans 12:15). I believe evil was not created or intended by God (Genesis 1-3). We see in God’s creation the intention of perfect communion between God and his creation including us the Imago Dei. Paul shares the following in Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” The fall that occurred at the beginning of time created a void and space between God and his creation.
Throughout the Old Testament we see a faithful God continue to be in relationship and uphold his covenant with his chosen people despite the continued disobedience (Genesis, Exodus, Samuel, Judges, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles). The problem of pain and suffering points to the reality that our lives and world are out of our control, which is what grief is at its core, a complete loss of control.
God speaking and being present in our pain is probably the greatest peace we have in our lives.
Hebrews 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Tim Timmons, one of my favorite Christian artists, has been diagnosed with cancer. He shares part of his story from this view point stating,
“Don't get me wrong, cancer is stupid, but Jesus is greater! True joy, that is an actual fruit of God's Spirit, is untouchable by circumstance. Many of us walk around happy as big smiles, but joyless as hell. Jesus says it often how through suffering HIS joy is made complete in us.Speaking of joy, this newest project of mine has been referred to by many as "joy-filled" and I love that description because it's true! These days I have more joy than I know what to do with. And no, it's not because I do 20 quiet times a day or because I'm super awesome, but because I am accessing the fullness that Jesus has for me. He is becoming my hope, not the remedy to what I am hoping for.”
I share this story often with those who are hurting not in order to shame or say “see you should stop whining,” but to point out that this man with four young children could die at any moment has found true joy and hope in Christ despite the circumstance, we can too! At some point all of us individually have to come to peace with this question of why is there evil? The Bible is filled with these similar questions and realities. The entire book of Ecclesiastes talks about life being a vapor, in the psalms the psalmist cries out again and again, “where are you God?”
As we walk towards the cross with Jesus this Good Friday and with the hope and anticipation of the Resurrection this Sunday,
Let us cry out to God in our pain and suffering.