I think the top question teens and adults wrestle with is how God can allow so much suffering, if He really is as powerful as He says He is? Many other, more specific questions fall under the umbrella of that biggie — questions like “Why did God allow my teacher’s baby to die?” or “If God cared about us, wouldn’t He make sure we had enough money to pay our bills?”
Sometimes suffering is comparative and focuses on the disparity between the apparent easy lives or blessings showered on those who are enemies of God, while His people endure many trials. Those things are hard to go through, but they’re even harder without a proper theological grid through which to process them. So if your teen is asking questions now, take advantage of the theoretical aspect of those questions, and allow them to shape your teen’s mind so that when he deals with devastating heartbreaks, he already has some of the answers he needs to heal.
The Issue of Sovereignty
The twin doctrines of God’s sovereignty and His love are the categories that come up with all hard questions about human suffering. While both are biblical and important, we really need to start with sovereignty. While God loves perfectly, others also love. His love for us is most significant because of His supreme sovereignty, that He is truly in control of all things. Without that foundation, His promises are empty, His loving arms incapable of holding us through our darkest days. So as you listen to your teen’s questions and ask follow-up questions, aim to discover whether the fact that God is all-powerful is something with which your teen is struggling.
The Origins of Suffering
Have you ever thought about the Garden of Eden — what would it have been like? Before the Fall, there was no suffering. None. God did not create suffering; instead, He created a safe world, a sinless couple, and a single rule. When they chose not to trust Him and, instead, to trust His enemy, they opened the door to all suffering — emotional, physical, financial, and otherwise. Until then, there were no tears, no bloody noses, no relational angst. Could God have prevented that from happening? We’re dealing in hypotheticals here, but if He is truly sovereign, He could have. But at what expense?
The Mystery of Humanity
God created people in His own image, with a will of their own. He could have created robots — or nothing at all. He created the earth for His pleasure. If anything, it seems that if He were ultimately selfish, He would have created every living thing already programmed to follow His every directive, respond to His every whim. But that’s not the kind of world He created. He gets to decide, because He chose to create. And He doesn’t give us much information about why He chose to create our world when or how He did. Psalm 115:3 gives us a glimpse at why He does what He does: He does what pleases Him.
Continue reading with Part 2.