Question from a Site Viewer
What is so great about god with all the misery on this planet?
Thanks for the question. It is a question many have asked. There is no one answer.
But I think we might begin by asking a parallel question. What is so great about men and women? Much, though not all, of the misery on the planet is caused by people. Yet, almost all are forced to admit that there is something about people that inspires awe. The individual who dove into the Potomac River to rescue passengers of an airplane that crashed, losing his own life in attempting to rescue still others – the doctor who volunteers to treat patients in an AIDs clinic in war-torn Africa – the person who risks all to save others – why do we do such things?
There is something about humanity that gives evidence to some greater character.
The same evidence is in this world. There is a great deal of suffering and misery. Yet, why is it that we can enjoy the beauty of a sunset, the wonder of an intimate relationship, the experience of happiness and bliss, or tranquility and love?
If the misery on this planet indicates a diminishing of God, then what does the heroism and love indicate?
The Christian might answer your question in many ways. First, God’s character is not parallel to ours. But there are points of connection. The God revealed in the Bible is His own separate person, who has personality, and who engages in relationship. This may be self-evident to you, but there are consequences to such truths. God is not a genie who magically heeds our beckon call. He is not some good-luck talisman, or some ogre who must be appeased. He is a person who has His own will and purpose, and yet wants to interact with our will and purpose.
Second, God is very patient and suffers for a long time. But He will not leave unpunished those who practice violence and evil. God destroyed the world once with a flood because, in the words of Genesis,
“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”
God condemns in the strongest words those who practice evil. In Proverbs 6:16, there are seven things listed that God hates. We tend not to like those who practice these things either. Scripture speaks of those who store up wrath for themselves for the coming judgment day (Romans 2:4-11). Those who practice evil will receive their reward. Those who practice good will receive their reward as well.
Third, God has shown love to the world. He creates life and breath and the ability to enjoy things. He is not distant but has promised to be with His people. He desires a relationship with us. He understands that we are bent towards sinning. He steps in and provided His Son who willingly came to be our Savior. And He did not do so because someone compelled Him to come to our aid. He came on His own. He now commands all of His followers to love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He commands and calls His people to do good, to overcome evil with good, to love those who hate us, to bless those who persecute us, to pray with those who suffer, to lift up the weak-hearted, to be patient when suffering. These are the character traits of great people.
When we say that God is great, therefore, we say that His character is great. John tells us in John 1:14, that he and the other disciples beheld the glory of God in the person of Jesus, and it was “grace and truth.” It is a matter of character. God is great in character. He sides with the downtrodden, and the oppressed. He tells us in James that the cries of the poor come before Him (James 5:1-7). Jesus Himself said these words,
“And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them suddenly.”
God does not use His power as we might. He does not throw His weight around. The lesson He gave to Elijah is that God often does not come in the violent storms, or in the earthquakes, or in the conflagrations of nature, but He comes in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). He tells us that there is a day coming when all will be righted. He tells us that we are destined for a life better than the life here. He tells us that in Him there is refuge from the storms of life.
God does not like evil. His own Son was crucified. He knows what it is like to suffer.
But death is not the end. I think all peoples know this instinctively, although some would seek to deny this. In God’s eternal kingdom, there will not be any misery (Revelation 21:4). There will be no sorrow, death, pain, or crying.
I take it that you ask the question because in your mind a great God would rid the world of misery. God tells us that He will do just that. But His response to our present suffering was to come and suffer with us. There is a reason why Christians worship and follow Jesus. He came and showed us the face of God in a world gone crazy. The present is a time in which people can freely choose to do good or to do evil. The tragedy of humanity is that there seems to be a tendency for evil. The news we read is simply horrible. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
But in the midst of the horror of a Civil War where brothers were killing brothers, and the great experiment of a country was being shattered, Longfellow could look past that horror to a hope. He wrote:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
The Civil War ended, as all wars ultimately will. God will prevail at the end. At the present, He is suffering with us over the misery and horror of a world gone crazy. He states that He is patient, waiting for people to repent and come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). But we should not take His patience as indifference, any more than the patience of a parent watching a child try to finish a race is indifference. But the day will come when this misery will be destroyed and a new heaven and earth will be created. This has been the consistent testimony of God to His prophets from Isaiah to John. Jesus said that in His Father’s house are many dwelling places and that He will come and take His own people to that place. He will ultimately destroy this world and bring in everlasting righteousness, in the words of Daniel the prophet.
This was the message of Jesus – peace on earth, goodwill to men. If Jesus was great, and almost all will accept that He was, then God too must be held to be great, because Jesus displayed to us God.
Thanks for your question. May the Lord Jesus guide you.