Have you ever been around a kid who wasn’t getting his way? I saw this little kid at a restaurant one time, his name was Timmy, and he was a grade-A, number-one brat. (I get it. Young children are a handful. One time, I took my nephew to the arboretum, where he pitched a fit, and we walked a mile back to the car with crying the whole way.) If little Timmy had only been crying, that would’ve been one thing, but little Timmy was running around the restaurant, hiding under tables from his dad. I have never wanted to spank someone else’s child so badly. Whoooo, thank you, Jesus, for self-control! His dad finally caught him and sat him at the table, where Timmy started shrieking, and then screamed, “You don’t love me!” and grabbed his cup and threw it on the floor. His dad looked at him, and I knew this kid was about to get the spanking of his life. Then he asked in his sassiest dad voice, “Timmy, does somebody need a hug?”
Timmy’s behavior did not improve.
I get questions about suffering from first-world agnostics and atheists all the time. They ask, “How can a loving God allow there to be so much suffering in the world?” Their argument is that, since God is loving and all-powerful, and suffering exists, then there must be no God.* They sound like Timmy in the restaurant to me. I want to look at them and ask in my sassiest pastor voice, “Does somebody need a hug?”
If life is not perfect, then you don’t love me.
The truth is that God’s design was for us to live forever, in paradise, with him. When we sinned, we separated ourselves from God. And not only did we fall, but all creation fell with us. It’s easy to say that God doesn’t care when you choose to focus on the suffering. God grieved about our suffering and sinful nature so much that he sent his son to die a shameful death on the cross so we could be with him! He gave everything to fix the problem.
Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” — BOOOM! (boom added for emphasis)
God’s answer to the suffering of the world was Christ. He held nothing back. More than that, God is grieved when you are hurting. In those moments, I hope you remember that he gave everything so that he could be with you in the midst of that suffering, because he loves you.
If you want some bonus reading on the impact of Christ in the world, here’s an article the Huffington Post published about that impact (Yes, I said the Huffington Post.) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-ortberg/six-surprising-ways-jesus_b_1773225.html
(*The Irony of this question is not lost on me. They are, of course, talking about the suffering of other people, suffering from which they are far removed. I want to say to them, “If you are aware of this suffering, and you ignore it, then I guess you don’t exist, and I am wasting my time talking to nothing,” then walk away. I have never done this, because I want to tell them about Jesus.)