(Much of this discussion was taken from the Leaders Guide for the study. Discussion commentary was added throughout.)
Untimely deaths of teenagers. Grandparents with terminal illnesses. Friends going through their parents’ divorce. All of these struggles impact all of our youth in some way throughout their early years.
This often begs the question “How could God love us and let this happen?”
How do you explain why God allows tragedies to happen? What are some of the things you hear people say following tragedies that kind of become cliché phrases? How do you feel when you hear these responses?
How could God love us and let bad things happen?
What would the world be like if God didn’t allow human beings to choose to do evil? Or to make mistakes? One of the possible implications is that we would no longer have the ability to choose to love God because there would be no alternative. If God controlled our decisions, would that really be loving?
Theodicy- The question of why God permits evil to harm good people is not a new question. People have asked this question for centuries. It even has its own term: theodicy. A theodicy is an attempt to explain the relationship between our suffering and the nature of God. There are many theodicies out there, like the following…
What Sin Really Does
Much of human suffering can be understood more clearly from Genesis 3, the story of the first couple choosing together to disobey God. At the core of sin is humanity’s rebellion against God. When those first human being sinned (and when we sin), four key relationships were (are) broken: our relationship with God, ourselves, each other, and the world around us. (It’s not only our own sin, but the sin in the world around us which can have different effects on our relationships.)
John 16:32-33 New Living Translation (NLT)
32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Why are these verses important to this discussion?
Jesus says hard times are expected. The promise of hard times is coupled with the assurance that Jesus is greater than all human suffering. Romans 8:28 states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” While this is beautiful and reassuring, it’s often used to dismiss very real pain and tragedy. The context of this passage is Paul’s assurance that the entire creation will be made new one day, and in the meantime we endure suffering, know that ultimately everything will work together for good.
Our hope is that none of these challenges can separate us from God’s love expressed in Jesus, which is described in Romans 8:38-39.
We read Isaiah 53:3-6 together. We read about how Jesus was despised, bore our suffering, pierced, crushed and punished. All to fulfill the prophesy in Isaiah.
And in Revelation we read “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death. Or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
There is this underlying hope in our lives that everything will be made new, one day. There is a lot of mystery in how God works and in God’s timing. We often don’t see any good fruit come from tragedy, but just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in others’ lives. We continue to look for the hope of resurrection and healing around us and through us.
What is this?
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