I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They cried out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:9-10, NIV).
Oh, oh! Bob’s memory is failing–he’s started this post with the same Bible passage with which he started last Friday’s post. Yes and no. Yes, I’ve quoted the same Bible passage; but no, my memory isn’t failing. In our last meeting before Christmas the Life group which Leonora and I are part of gave me a daily devotional book by Randy Alcorn, Life Promises for Eternity (Carol Stream, Illinois, 2012). One of today’s Bible verses being Revelation 6:10-11 prompted me to quote it again.
Yesterday evening Leonora and I attended the group’s weekly meeting. Eight attended the meeting, and we studied the section “Why Doesn’t God Eliminate the Worst Forms of Evil and Suffering?” of Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? booklet (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2010). As usual the study was preceded and followed by singing and prayer. However not as usual, the meeting was held at Rosalie Lane’s rather than at Roland and Sherry Loder’s; the singing wasn’t accompanied by music, Roger Bragg (and his guitar) not being able to attend; and we had a new attendee, Mary Froude.
I opened the study by reading the introduction to Chapter 35, “Apparently Gratuitous Evil and Pointless Suffering,” of Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good : Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil book (Colorado Springs:Multnomah Books, 2009). It tells what happened to a young couple, David and Svea Flood, who served as missionaries in the Belgian Congo. Shortly after giving birth to a young girl, Svea died. Disillusioned, David buried her, gave his baby girl to another young missionary couple, and returned to Sweden, blaming God for ruining his life. Alcorn asks, “Why did this happen? What possible good could have come from it?” (Alcorn, book, page 370).
Next I asked another member of the group to read the opening paragraphs of “Why Doesn’t God Eliminate the Worst Forms of Evil and Suffering?” They tell of two incidents so horrible that one’s natural reaction on hearing of them is that the suffering caused by them was pointless. However, as Alcorn observes, our not seeing any point in such suffering doesn’t prove that there is none.
Then, having requested the group in our previous meeting to read “Why Doesn’t God Eliminate the Worst Forms of Evil and Suffering?” in preparation for our studying it, I asked what answers Alcorn gives in the rest of “Why Doesn’t God Eliminate the Worst Forms of Evil and Suffering?” to the question that it asks. One of his answers was remembered, by Pat Peddle. It is that the experience of suffering may cause us to grieve over the human rebellion that caused suffering and to long for God to complete His plan to redeem the world.
After considering that answer, we read and discussed the other answers given in “Why Doesn’t God Eliminate the Worst Forms of Evil and Suffering?”:
– God promises not to allow anything to happen that He can’t use to bring ultimate good to His people and to glorify Himself. A prime example is His allowing Jesus to be crucified.
– Sometimes suffering causes unsaved people to turn to God and Christians to grow in faith and character.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:7, “He who restrains it [lawlessness] will do so until he is out of the way,” and 1 Corinthians 10:13, “God…will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it,” indicate that God is restraining the tests and temptations that we encounter. (Both passages are quoted from the ESV.)
I closed by reading the full story of David and Svea Flood as it is told at A Story of Eternal Perspective on Randy Alcorn’s website. It certainly demonstrates that events which seem cruel and pointless at the time may result in eternal good. I encourage you to read it too.