There are things that appear to contradict one another or even to prohibit the existence of one another. But they don’t do they? They can coexist – even a McDonalds right next to a gym like we have here in Andover!
Can a good God and bad things coexist?
I think if John (the bystander and eyewitness to the live of Jesus) were here today and heard us having this conversation about how to reconcile a good God with bad and even evil things in the world I think John would say: “these are great questions and all I know is this: I saw God in a body, I saw the son of God walking around on earth and I saw him coexist with evil people, really evil people who did really evil things. He coexisted with me and with Peter and with Judas and with Thomas and between us we doubted him, denied knowing him, betrayed him and failed him.”
John would say “I know that this is a big thing and I know that it is emotional and sensitive and these are difficult questions and I’m not sure I’ve got all the answers, but I can tell you this, I saw God and I saw evil and they can coexist.”
This week we are looking in the final part of the series at a story from towards the end of the life of Jesus. You can find it in John chapter 11 verses 1 to 45 which you can read here.
In verse 4 we get the words SO THAT again – similar to the story of the blind man in week five of this series: God doesn’t cause the pain or the suffering or in this case the death, but in the midst of it something can happen, there is a SO THAT moment or moments.
God’s glory can be revealed in the midst of the pain and suffering. We don’t always know why evil and suffering coexist with a God who is good, we don’t know why God seems to allow some things to happen even if he isn’t the cause – why doesn’t he step in? We don’t know, but in every situation and circumstance no matter how horrible there can be a SO THAT outcome. God’s glory can be revealed in suffering and pain and tragedy.
Martha goes out to meet Jesus – pick up the story in verse 21. If you’d been here my brother wouldn’t have died and she expresses what many of us have expressed when we have been suffering or tragedy has struck, what many of us might be expressing in these days of the Covid-19 pandemic. God if you would have just showed up, if you would just show up now you could make things better – if you had been here rather than staying there. You need to know that it is normal and human to have these questions.
Jesus says “it’s me, I am resurrection and life, if you believe in me you will live and even though suffering and pain and death will come you can still find life.” Death is a door, a transition to another kind of life, eternal life. Jesus looks at her tenderly in the midst of her pain, where faith and the real world collide, in the midst of the questions about whether good and bad, light and dark, love and suffering can coexist. He says I am in the middle of this with you and the ultimate resurrection and life is in me and he asks “do you believe this?”
It takes all the faith that Martha has, all that she can find in this moment and she says in verse 27 “Yes Lord, I believe, I don’t understand but maybe I don’t have to understand everything to believe in something, all I believe in this moment is that you are the Son of God and I don’t understand and I am angry and frustrated and have all these questions about why you didn’t come sooner, but I do believe.”
Can a good God coexist with bad things? Well Jesus certainly thought so and because of him we can know that even when we are suffering we are still loved and that even when it feels like Jesus has stayed over there when we need him over here, he has a plan and a purpose, that there can be a SO THAT moment or moments that reveal him to us and to others. And whilst God isn’t the cause of those things maybe he isn’t intervening to stop them because he has a bigger SO THAT purpose.
Ultimately Jesus showed us that suffering and even death are not the end that there is more to come because he is the resurrection and the life. John the bystander would say to us as we finish series: ”I was there, I saw it, just a few days later I saw greatest sign of all when Jesus rose from dead and in him there is life, that’s why I wrote all of this down so you could see in your mind’s eye what I saw with my own eyes and believe just like I believed even though the world isn’t always good and suffering and struggle are real.”
So I hope you see that the resounding answer is that a good God and bad things can coexist, bad things don’t disprove the existence of a good God, and perhaps they mean that we need a good God even more. So if this question is the last thing stopping you from believing, or it’s causing you to question your faith or have doubts about God can I encourage you to turn again to him or turn to him for the first time, because whilst we may not have all the answers and it is still mysterious, a struggle and a tough circumstance with God alongside you is way better than one without him and you don’t know what SO THAT thing you will find with God in the mist of it all.
To find out more about Next Steps at Andover Baptist Church check out the NextSteps web page.
Questions to reflect on in your small group or on your own:
- Can you think of a notable real or fictional story that appeared to be heading in a bad direction, but ended up turning out well?
- What are some of the details of the story from John chapter 11 that would lead a reader to believe that this actually happened?
- What does the fact that Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb say about him?
- What is the thing about this story that has struck you the most powerfully?
- In what ways does the story of Lazarus parallel the story of God’s relationship with people?
- In yoru mind, how does the story of Lazarus address the question ‘why would a good God allow bad things to happen?’
- Do you have a peronal example of when something difficult or even tragic helped to strengthen your faith? How?
Listen to the full talk on our podcast below…