“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
People ask me all the time how I can believe in God when there is so much pain and suffering in the world. This is a genuine concern that deserves a sincere answer. However, there is often more to the question than honest doubt.
The “problem of pain,” as the well-known Christian scholar, C.S. Lewis, once called it, is atheism’s most potent weapon against the Christian faith.
Much of science and history, although it cannot be proved definitively, support the reality of God with evidence that is so strong one has to choose to deny it, as the Bible says: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 14:1).
Along with doubt without any objective evidence on which to base their faith in “no God” on, skeptics are often forced to resort to philosophical objections for God, and the suffering of innocent people is a good one.
How can a God of love permit such things as war, sickness, pain, and death, especially when their effects often plague the innocent? Either He is not a God of love and is indifferent to or enjoys human suffering, or He is not omnipotent and is therefore powerless against suffering, skeptics will say.
Regardless of how the skeptic presents this objection, the supposedly all powerful biblical God of perfect love and justice is reduced to an impossible self-contradiction that morality must rightly shun.
If the problem of pain is a real difficulty you struggle with, you have to know that atheism is certainly not the answer, neither is agnosticism, and neither is believing Christianity is possible but rejecting it based on personal moral objections developed in a fallible and finite human mind.
The problems inherent in rejecting God because we believe we are either morally or intellectually superior, given that we can only use the minds God created for us to the extent that He allows it, is that it is arrogant and lacking in understanding of the nature of God.
“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).
“Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why hast Thou made me thus?” (Romans 9:20).
“Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.…”
– Isaiah 55:7-9
What we can all know for certain is that, with our full faith in God’s goodness and in Christ’s redemption, we can recognize that our present sufferings can be turned to His glory and our good.
It’s important to know that the sufferings of unsaved men are often used by the Holy Spirit to cause them to realize their needs of salvation and to turn to Christ in repentance and faith and that the sufferings of Christians should always be the means of developing a stronger dependence on God and a more Christ-like character.
One thing that bothers me is that skeptics who use suffering as a “potent weapon against the Christian faith”, often do so to prop up their own disbelief or discourage belief in others while disregarding the fact that people can suffer, understand it’s in accordance with God’s will, and remain incredibly strong in their faith.
It happens all the time.
Locked in a dark room without food and water, 14-year old Susan was left to die… by her father!
Susan and her younger brother, both Muslims, lived alone with their father after he divorced their mother. Life was routine… school, chores, a little time to play. But, on that fateful day in March 2010 Susan’s life took a dramatic turn when an evangelist visited her school and she decided to trust Christ for her salvation. “After a month of keeping it secret, news reached my father that I had converted to Christianity,” recalls Susan.
Enraged, her father confined her to a small room. Her brother Mbusa was warned to not to tell anyone that Susan was locked up and was instructed to not give her any food. Young Mbusa tried to help his sister by roasting bananas when their father was away. He also dug a hole under the door where he could pour water through. “My sister could drink water using her tongue. But most days she could only feed on mud,” he said.
For six long months Susan never saw the sunlight.
A nearby neighbor became concerned after not seeing her. Finally, when Mbusa feared that his sister was dying, he told the neighbor that Susan was locked up in one of the rooms in the house. Alerting authorities, the police rushed to the house and broke down the door. Rescuing Susan, they took her to a nearby hospital. During her ordeal Susan had lost the use of both of her legs.
After spending the next 10-months confined to a hospital bed recovering, Susan was later transported to a home in Kenya. Living now with an Open Doors co-worker and his family her love for the Lord has grown. When asked how she is feeling, she confidently responds, “I am happy and not in pain. I would never leave my Jesus who died for me.” Although the months of torture were horrific, Susan has forgiven her father and asks for just two things; the ability to walk again so that she can tell others about Jesus… and salvation for her father.
Tamirat Wolde Gorgis
“God have you forsaken me?” Sharing a 13×13 foot cell with 40 other inmates; the human stench was overpowering. Bodies were everywhere. Inmates had to take turns to simply lie down. Even in such tight quarters, Tamirat never felt so alone.
Replaying in his mind the events that led to his arrest, he still couldn’t believe it. How could his friends have falsely accused him of desecrating the Quran, and how could the police have tricked him into signing a confession? Following a disagreement over money, Tamirat recalls that his Muslim friend accused him of insulting Islam. Crying out for help, people from a nearby village came to his rescue, but after learning the grounds for the assault, they turned on him as well. The local police offered no assistance. Arresting Tamirat they took him into custody.
Without any official charges, the police took matters into their own hands. “They wanted me to confess that I insulted Islam,” shared Tamirat. “The interrogator explained that if I confessed to the charges, he will let me go.” Refusing, Tamirat was given a form to sign, but the content was in Somali which he did not understand. Unaware of what it said, he went ahead and signed it. The next day in court Tamirat realized that he had signed a confession. Desperately pleading his innocence, the judge ordered him to be silent and gave his verdict; Tamirat was sentenced to three years in prison.
“The first year in prison was the hardest,” Tamirat says. “Sharing the cramped cell with fierce Muslim criminals I feared the reaction if my faith was exposed. But it was impossible to hide it for too long.” Once it was discovered a group beat him so severely he struggled to walk and eat for seven days afterwards.
Isolated, he received no news and felt forgotten; he had no idea that his lawyer and friends were fighting for his appeal. “For many months I didn’t know that Christians were praying for me,” Tamirat said. Finally his appeal went thorough. While in court, when the judge called Tamirat’s name, out of the corner of his eye he saw men bowing their heads; he knew they were praying for him. For the first time in months an indescribable joy came over him.
Later he learned that the judge had changed his verdict saying that they could not find enough evidence to prove his guilt. But instead of releasing him on false charges, Tamirat’s sentence was reduced to two years… by now he had been in prison for 16 months.
Five months later, after serving almost two years in prison, Tamirat WoldeGorgis was released. The husband and father of two daughters rejoiced saying, “May all glory be unto Him who has sustained and kept me through the dark hours. He has made me stronger and has built my faith. Thank you for your ongoing support, concern and prayers.”
Persecution stories from One With Them