JOHN PEARRELL: Suffering exists to remind us of the importance of staying close to God

Suffering exists to remind us of the importance of God

In my last column, we began to look at least at a partial answer to the problem of pain and suffering in our world. I pointed out that so much of the pain and suffering we see comes as a result of people doing wrong and evil things.

My point was simple: if we don't blame Mr. Ford for every automobile related death, why should we blame God for the bad behavior of His creatures?

Many, however, who use the pain and suffering argument as the reason they don't believe in God may resort to the argument from a natural catastrophe viewpoint. Men don't cause hurricanes, tsunamis, floods and tornados, what about those?

Innocent people are killed every year by these natural events. How do we account for a good and powerful God when something like this happens?

Now, it may be just me speaking here, but why is it that we never blame Mother Nature for these events? I mean, if a person doesn't believe in God, why is it that they use the argument of natural disasters to bolster their non-belief?

Why don't we ever hear someone blaming nature itself? To me it would be more consistent to say, "Well, after that storm, I am not going to believe ever again in the goodness of nature!"

A person who doesn't believe in God might say, "That argument is ridiculous. Nature is an impersonal force so you can't blame it. But God is supposed to be a personal force for good, and since natural devastation is not good, one can't believe in a personal God who would allow such calamity."

According to the biblical record, God created the world as a good place. Only after Adam's sin does that change. Obviously, if one does not believe in God, you are not going to accept this view, but at least allow me the courtesy of offering an answer from one who does accept this view.

Why does God allow pain and suffering to enter the world in the form of natural calamities? Is He punishing us? Is this a view of God that makes Him a harsh and vindictive God? Many, it seems, would argue for that perspective, but I think there is something else at work here.

Perhaps one of the clearest answers to this age old problem comes from the pen of C.S. Lewis. In his book, "The Problem of Pain," Lewis wrote the following.

"The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be will with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are a masked evil.

"Pain is unmasked unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt ... And pain is not only immediately recognizable evil, but evil impossible to ignore.

"We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities ... we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

"Now God, who has made us knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him.

"What then can God do in our interests but make 'our own life' less agreeable to us, and take away our plausible sources of false happiness? It is just here, where God's providence seems at first to be most cruel, that the Divine humility, the stooping down of the Highest most deserves praise."

John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.