If God Is Just, Why All This Suffering?

Holding God's goodness and the world's pain in tension
If God Is Just, Why All This Suffering?
Image: LAVIKA / SHUTTERSTOCK

A million girls and boys trafficked for sex each year.

Millions of widows facing violence and destitution at the hands of their own family and neighbors.

Tens of millions of slaves locked in crushing labor.

Hundreds of millions of girls raped.

How do we hold in tension the truth of God’s goodness and love for justice with the reality of pandemic suffering? There are countless stories of people all over our world—people created by God for a life of wholeness and flourishing but who instead undergo a living nightmare of injustice. How do we open our eyes and see the dire needs of our neighbors while holding fast to hope in a God who rescues, heals, and restores?

Derailment in the face of suffering is far too often the norm rather than the exception. Even those of us launching forth with the deepest passion for justice and conviction of God’s goodness can lose heart and fail to persevere over the long haul. Everyone is vulnerable to derailment; injustice can breed disillusionment and doubt. Suffering can drive cynicism or, even worse, despair.

But God invites us to come to him—not in spite of doubt and derailment but in the midst of it. Woven throughout Scripture is an unguarded type of prayer known as lament. To lament is to ask “Why?” and “Why not?” as well as “What are you doing God?” and “Where are you?” To lament is to pour out our hearts, holding nothing back. It is to pray without trying to be more full of faith than we actually are. Lament is prayer that honors the honesty of pain and anger while also honoring the truth that God is the one who reigns and whose hesed love never fails. Lament holds in tension all the suffering that seems to make no sense with a determination to believe that God is just. Lament draws us near to God when we are tempted to turn away. Lament enables us to keep moving forward with perseverance in the justice calling; it is a way to remain deeply connected to the God who loves us and loves justice even when injustice makes us ask the hardest questions of God.

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Bethany Hanke Hoang

Bethany Hanke Hoang is a TCW advisor and is Founding Director and Special Advisor for the International Justice Mission's Institute for Biblical Justice. You can follow Bethany on Twitter at @Bethanyhoang.

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May 25

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