Is It Possible To Get God Off The Hook?


There is no more exasperating and wrenching human reality than suffering.

It’s safe to say that “the problem of pain” has historically been the number one obstacle to trusting God.

Theologian John Stott put it this way:  “The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation.  Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unfair.  Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love.”

Is it possible to get God off the hook?

Here’s a collection of quotes – beginning with skeptics and moving toward people who have bet their lives that God’s existence and the world’s pain are not irreconcilable.

Suffering is fatal to Christianity.” (Philosopher John Stuart Mill)

If God exists, then he is the devil.” (Poet Charles Baudelaire)

The only excuse for God is that he doesn’t exist.”  (Author Marie-Henri Beyle Stendhal)

The universe has “precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” (Cambridge biologist Richard Dawkins)

If God were small enough to be understood, he wouldn’t be big enough to be worshipped.” (Catholic mystic Eveyln Underhill)

God is not nice.  God is not an uncle.  God is an earthquake.”  (Rabbi Abraham Heschel)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Jesus of Nazareth, on the cross)

If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know.  Indeed, you can’t have it both ways.” (Protestant pastor Tim Keller)

The only effective antidote to the wickedness around us is to live differently from this moment on.” (Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput, concerning the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings)

The Lord never seems to get there when you want him, but when he arrives he’s always right on time.” (Essayist and social critic James Baldwin)

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (Theologian C.S. Lewis)

You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Joseph, the son of Jacob: Genesis 50:20)

Is everything sad going to come untrue?” (Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings)

It’s worth noting that the Bible never presents what one might call “the answer” to the problem of suffering.  We encounter instead the Answerer:  Jesus addresses pain and evil by taking it upon himself.

Is it possible to get God off the hook?

It’s clear that God has never had the least intention of cooperating with such a project.

Instead, God’s mysterious and unexpected answer to suffering is to put himself on the hook – on the cross, that is.

You may be hurting today.  But whatever you are experiencing, God has already been there himself.

And his assurance is that you will never suffer apart from his presence, grace, and care.

— Authored by Glenn McDonald

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