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July 29, 2019 - Hope for the (Otherwise) Hopeless

The New Yorker magazine ran a powerful article written by a father whose infant daughter had just died. “One of the most despicable religious fallacies,” he said, “is that suffering is ennobling—that it is a step on the path to some kind of enlightenment or salvation. Isabel’s suffering and death did nothing for her, or us, or the world. We learned no lessons worth learning; we learned no lessons that would benefit anyone. And Isabel most certainly did not earn ascension to a better place, as there was no better place for her than at home with her family.”

How bitter—and how understandably so.

If, as many scientists declare, there is no God, no purpose to life, no purpose to the entire creation itself—then there’s no hope for anything, much less answers to the question of suffering and evil. In 1958, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, Erwin Schrodinger, wrote: “Most painful is the absolute silence of all our scientific investigations toward our questions concerning the meaning and scope of the whole display. The more attentively we watch it, the more aimless and foolish it appears to be.”

In contrast, if you believe in God, and in the great controversy scenario, you at least have some hope, some prospect of answers to the terrible dilemma of suffering and death. Evil is real, suffering is real, and death is real because the devil is real, a literal being who rebelled against the moral order of the creation and has brought that rebellion to earth. In the book of Job, we can see the reality of this conflict and the terrible consequences it has here, on earth, and in our lives. Besides losing his health and his property, Job lost all his children as well. And yet, even as the story ended “well,” Job was given no answer, no justification for those deaths, and that’s because evil has no justification, has no explanation; to explain it would be, in a sense, to justify it—and we never want to do that.

Instead, through the cross of Christ, we are given this precious promise that, when this whole terrible conflict with suffering and evil is over, God “will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4).

Otherwise, we have nothing but pain, suffering and no hope of anything but the justifiable bitterness of that grieving father.

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