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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Is God Good?

When The Blitzkrieg of the Nazi army swept over Europe destroying nations and civilizations and
imprisoning millions in death camps, reasonable men and women asked, “Where is God?” The world would fight a six-year-long war before the terror in Europe would end. Eleven million men, women, and children from Jewish communities and Christian across Europe would die in the prisons and death camps.   When it was over, the question remained: Where was God? Is God good?

    The answer is that God was there. He was in the prison camps. He was there with ten Boom family, who had hidden Jews in their Haarlem house and had finally been imprisoned themselves. He was in the ghettos rescuing children as his people risked their lives to save the little ones. He was there wherever his people gathered and gave themselves to relieve the suffering and rescue those in peril from death. That is what Jesus declared when he said, “where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). Wherever God’s people are there God is.

    But so many died. If God were good, couldn’t he have prevented their sufferings and deaths? Could not God have prevented the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Empire?

    The answer is yes. He could have. But God chose to create mankind with the freedom to choose. Men could choose to love and obey God, or they could choose to resist God and choose their own way. When men choose to resist God, he allows them to do so, even when it results in death and suffering. His purpose is to allow evil to be seen as evil. He desires that we know the consequences of our choices.

    But what about the innocent people who suffered?  What about the children? Where was God for them? Is God good if he allows the innocent to suffer?

    History is multi-layered. There is the big picture which in this case was the conflict between God and evil on the stage of the world. On this level God’s good did prevail. Hitler dies. The Nazi Empire is gone. The prisoners are released.  But there is also the layer of individual lives. Individuals may experience God’s goodness in the middle of suffering. And many, many did during this awful time.

    Those who looked to God found him sufficient for their need and more, even when they faced death. Death has no power over a person whose trust is in God. Death is not the end for them. And suffering is only for a moment. Many believers went to their deaths with the confidence that God was with them, even in that time. Yes, even children.

Many found faith in the prison camps, as the story told by Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place reports, for even there “all who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It is simply a fact that when we come to the end of our ability and strength, we are often open to calling upon God and the hope he offers.

The complaint leveled against God that he is either not good or not powerful to stop the evil most often comes from those who see this life as all there is. If that were the case, a God who allowed evil and suffering would not be good. But it is not the case. This life is only the beginning of eternal life for those whose hope is in God, and the suffering of this life is momentary and small compared to the glory to come (Romans 8:18).

But what about others who do not experience the comfort of God in their sufferings?

God intends the difficulties and injustices and pain of this life to cause us to look to him. C.S. Lewis has written that God shouts to us in our pain. When our houses burn down or are blown away in a hurricane and we lose everything we have worked for, when our child dies in our arms of cancer or at the hands evil men, God intends that to cause us to look to him. He is the answer. He is the comfort. And we can trust our child to him.

The complaint that God cannot be good if he allows suffering is simply mistaken. It is asked by those who do not know or understand God. There is no question that the evil we experience in the world hurts, but it is not a sign that God has abandoned us or that he is not good. For those who have experienced God’s goodness and peace in the middle of suffering and evil, this moment is much more often a moment of deepest blessing. God is able to keep us even in times like these. He is more than sufficient.