GS24-07 The Problem of Pain

The Problem of Pain
Bill Giovannetti
Welcome to part 7 in our series for the year called Giant Steps. If you have not been here for earlier parts of this series, you are welcome to visit our website and you can find all the previous parts there.

Today, I am still off script. I mean that the sermon I had planned to preach, I'm not going to preach. I feel in my gut the Holy Spirit is still leading me in another direction.

As we get into our topic, I think you'll understand why.

We're going to dive right into Scripture:

"There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. [2] And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? [3] I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. [4] Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? [5] I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."" (Luke 13:1-5)

There has never been a time in human history when the pain and tragedies and evils of the whole world are in your face as much as it is today.

With news, with social media, with streaming services, with the immediacy of everyday people posting every day tragedies... no matter when, no matter where, no matter how brutal something is, it shows up in our feeds, on our devices, on our TVs and it, therefore, gets into our hearts.

It can add up, emotionally. The pains, the sufferings, the holocausts and horrors of today's world can add up. Earthquakes, floods, fires, eruptions, violence, riots, wars, dictators, corruption, evil.

It's heavy.

And I can tell you that if I didn't live with an unshakeable confidence of heaven, I don't know how I would get out of bed in the morning.

There is today a magnification, a multiplication, of bad news and human suffering. This world is a dangerous place to be.

And into this tragedy comes the painful question,"Why, God?"
Why the suffering?
Why the tragedy?
Why the pain, the illness, the loss?
Why the death?

Why the heartache, the tears, the inconsolable grief, the hole in the heart that can never be filled?

Where is God when it hurts? Where is God when these things happen?
"Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself?" (Job 7:20).

The Problem of Pain

This is the question Jesus faces here in two short stories.

In the first story, there is moral evil unleashed on innocent victims—the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. We'll call that the temple calamity.

In the second story, there is natural evil on innocent victims—the 18 people who died in a construction accident when a tower fell on them. We'll call that the tower calamity.

The people are asking the biggest question that can be asked. They are asking for an answer to what is called "The Problem of Pain."

In seminary, my church history professor said that "the problem of pain" keeps more people away from God than any other. When he said it, I was skeptical. In those days, most of my friends were stuck on scientific or logical objections, not pain.

But back then, we were bulletproof twenty-somethings.

Then life happened. A friend broke his back: paralyzed for life. Someone's son tragically took his own life. A much prayed-for pregnancy ended in miscarriage. The more we asked why, the more we turned a suspicious eye toward God.

In the oldest book in the whole Bible, a man named Job suffered so much, he accused God of painting a bull's-eye on his back:

"Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself?" (Job 7:20).

Job, like anybody who's lived much, crashed into the problem of pain, and questioned God over it.

And now, here in Luke, generations after Job, people again bring up the same questions to Jesus.

I want to say that every system, every philosophy, and every religion has to answer this question. Why all the suffering? Why all the pain?

I'm going to suggest that if you are not a Christian—if you belong to some other religion or to no religion or if you subscribe to some philosophy—you have a logical duty to push and prod your own system as hard as you would push the Christians in your life for an answer.

And I would further suggest that the quality of that answer should determine whether or not you stay with that system.

And the most important thing I would say then is this:

There is no system or religion or philosophy that answers the Problem of Pain with the soul-satisfying depth and logical coherence as well as does biblical Christianity.

Step Out of Confusion About Pain