One of the most common objections to Christianity is this question: “If God is good, why is there pain and suffering?” But Christianity offers a unique answer to this question. And its answer to this question is what makes the “Good News” so good.
Chapter 11 in the book of John in the Bible is the best place to turn when someone asks the question “Why is there suffering and death if God is good?” Here’s the story in a nutshell:
Jesus is told that his good friend Lazarus is sick and is going to die…unless Jesus does something about it. Because we all know that Jesus is good, we all expect him to rush over to Lazarus’ house and heal him. But Jesus doesn’t go. He just waits. With no explanation, Jesus waits. He waits just long enough for Lazarus to die…and then he waits 4 more days. Finally, Jesus goes to visit his friend’s family in the time of their grief. He visits Lazarus’ tomb. And John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”
That’s probably the shortest verse in the Bible, but it makes a powerful statement about suffering. The presence of pain in the world pains Jesus too. Jesus (God-in-flesh) weeps in the face of death. It angers him. He hates death. And that’s comforting to me because it tells us that when bad things happen, Jesus weeps with us.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Though God may not give us a satisfying explanation for allowing death, he is not content to let death have the last word. God will not end this story (or our story) with a funeral.
After weeping at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus does the miraculous. He defeats death as he commands, “Lazarus, come out!” He raises the dead. He gives new life. The Good News of Christianity is not that God prevents every death, but that God brings new life out of death.
Something else must be added here about resurrection. When Lazarus was resurrected, he was physically resurrected. Real life. Physical life.
And we’re promised the same thing one day: physical resurrection. Jesus’ own resurrection ensures us of that. And resurrection is even better than the normal way we think of “Heaven.” Physical resurrection is the way that physical death is really beaten.
So, yes, God is good and, yes, there is still suffering and death. But the unique claim of Christianity is that this will not always be so. Our good God will bring resurrection.