Last night, our church meditated on the subject of suffering and the problem of evil. It is a complex subject that requires a multi-layer response, which when it is all said and done, still requires agonizing faith to endure in times of horrendous suffering.
That said, good theology is essential to suffering well. On that note, Oliver O’Donovan has a helpful statement about the ‘inscrutability of providence’ and the need to interpret evil in light of Christ’s resurrection. Here’s what he said. You may need to read it twice. It’s dense.
The ‘problem of evil’ is the problem of the inscrutability of providence in the light of the moral order. The cross affords us that interpretation of providence which allows us, not yet to see the good perspicuously [i.e., clearly] within it, but to be certain that we shall ultimately see it. But the problem has arisen because our knowledge of the good (as imperfect as it is) and our perceptions of providence (as imperfect as they are) are two, not one. We have not learnt the meaning of goodness by reading it off God’s arbitrary decrees, off the death of this man and the birth of this other. We have learnt it from the regularities of the created order. The vindication of God is the vindication of those regularities in the face of the mysterious course of history; it is the demonstration that the God who rules the world is the same as the God who made it, and that the outcome of history will affirm and not deny the order of its making. (Oliver O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics, 44-45).
I told you it was a little bit heady. But if you sink your teeth into what Oliver O’Donovan is saying, you will come away with the Christian confidence that while we cannot trace the order of his decrees, we can yet trust that God is working all things together for good. This is not something we see in our circumstances, but in the fact that the cross of Jesus Christ resulted in the resurrection of God’s Messiah, and the restoration of all things.
If you are a Christian (or not), look to the gospel in your hour of affliction. It alone will comfort your failing heart and give you an anchor in the storm.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss