After just preaching the first sermon in a new series “God Where are you? Why do bad things happen? Why do prayers go unanswered?” I’ve landed on two questions that should NOT be asked; one by Christians, the other by atheists.
This week’s sermon (See chapter one of the accompanying book) was titled “Two days from Hell and 5 amazing words.” I almost felt a little self conscious preaching it, and realized how untypical this message is from many that are popular today. I also realized the strong pressure there is to help people “feel better” when they come to church.
First, here’s the question Christians should not ask: “Isn’t going to church and listening to a sermon supposed to make me feel good?” I realized how many people might be asking that question after our “kick-off” sermon to this new series.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to preach messages that are encouraging, challenging and comforting; we all need positive input in this world. However, the tragedy in Las Vegas, storms brewing in the Caribbean, and potential nuclear conflict with North Korea (just to name a few) remind us that not everything in life is positive and encouraging. There is a sizable amount of pain, suffering, disappointment and injustice in every life that doesn’t go away because of a great worship set or inspiring sermon.
Life is indeed full of blessings to be enjoyed and celebrated. However, it isn’t the blessings that we struggle with, it is the pain, suffering and injustice that can overwhelm us. For all those who attended CLC this weekend, or to those who bought the book and read through chapter one, you may not “feel better” but be patient. Our journey will take a deeper look at pain, beyond a common yet superficial “God will make it all go away.”
The Bible is far from superficial. It is authentic truth about real people and speaks to the reality of life as we live it. Our study (and the book) will refer to a man named Job who “had it all” and lost it all, and who did so without lashing out in bitterness at people or at God. We can learn a great deal from this good example, and eventually gain strength and healthier perspectives in our own painful times.
Second, here’s the question atheists should not ask: “Why?” A person who doesn’t believe in God really has no reason to ask any “Why” kind of questions. They need not ask “Why do bad things happen? Why is there pain or injustice? Why aren’t things fair?” The list could go on and on.
As stated on page eight in the book, “The world of the atheist has no reason to be fair or comfortable. Any pain or evil, even the most agonizing and horrendous is neither un-deserved nor justified, it simply is. Atheists can save themselves the emotional anguish of their struggles by choosing to accept the reality of pain in life without necessarily having to justify or understand it.”
If there is no God, the universe is simply a product of random, impersonal chance. Whatever happens happens. It is the theist who struggles with “how things should be.” It is the theist who wonders how pain and evil can exist since God also exists, and we believe He is both all powerful and all good.