A truly good God would not want evil to exist.
An all-powerful God would not allow evil to exist.
Therefore, a God who is both good and powerful cannot exist.
So goes the logic.
But there is a hidden premise buried inside the argument. The premise is: God does not have any good reasons to allow suffering and evil to exist. But suppose someone has a very strong desire for something and is able to obtain that thing, but doesn’t act on it because he has reasons for not doing so that appear to outweigh the desirability of the thing. How do we know it doesn’t work this way with God? Might God have reasons for allowing suffering and evil to exist that in his mind outweigh the desirability of their non-existence?
The problem of evil and suffering used to be a personal struggle for me until I began to realize some of that struggle comes from intellectual arrogance. Those who argue against the existence of God based on evil and suffering seem to say, “If I can’t see any reasons God might have for permitting evil, then he doesn’t have any.”
But a God who is infinitely more powerful than me would also be infinitely more knowledgeable than me. I began to realize that if God is infinitely knowledgeable, why couldn’t he have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil that I can’t think of?
This is why, in the end, to believe that a truly good and all-powerful God exists in a world of evil and suffering requires humility.
A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride… - Proverbs 14:3
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” - Psalm 14:1
Those who aren't familiar with the Christian gospel may not realize this, but the cross of Jesus Christ is a public statement about the sin of each individual human being. The bloodied and eviscerated body of Jesus Christ serves as a visual demonstration of the heinousness of my sin.
In reflecting on this, Milton Vincent writes, "If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved."
So when we stand at the foot of the cross, we are exposed. It screams for all to hear we have sins we wished no one would ever discover. In a way, the worst tidbits about my life have been brought out into the open through the cross.
This can be incredibly freeing. Why would anyone be shocked to hear about my struggles with sin? With a megaphone, the cross has already publicized this information. So there's no need to hide.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." - James 5:16
A few years ago, I read David Mathis' new book, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines. I wholeheartedly recommend it to you. Within his section on Christian fellowship, he has a word to us on the much underrated ministry of listening. Borrowing extensively from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, Mathis has these important reminders for us as we head into the holidays:
1. Good listening requires patience
How often do you find yourself thinking about your next comment while the other person is still talking? James' words need frequent repetition: "...be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). Talking too quickly may cause your comments to be insensitive and simplistic. Drawing out the other person and allowing them to put expression to what they're thinking, puts you in a better position to say something helpful because you more thoroughly understand what life is like for that person.
2. Good listening is an act of love
Bonhoeffer notes that one way we express love to God is by listening attentively to his Word. Ditto with human beings. Listening demonstrates our interest in another's interests (Philippians 2:3-4). Being slow to listen and quick to speak is the antithesis of love.
3. Good listening asks perceptive questions
Asking perceptive questions isn't about being smart. It's about being a good listener. I would say 90% of perceptive question asking comes from attentive listening.
4. Good listening is ministry
Again Bonhoeffer makes a good point: many times "...listening can be a greater service than speaking." This, of course, is the proverbial problem men have as portrayed in this hilarious video. While there's some truth to this, seeing listening as a greater service than speaking isn't just a male problem. It's a human problem.
5. Good listening prepares us to speak well
Proverbs 18:13 says this, "To answer before listening, that is folly and shame." Abraham Lincoln is credited with this witty quip: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I'll spend the first four sharpening the axe." Good listening contributes to good speaking.
6. Good listening reflects our relationship with God
If you're quick to speak and slow to listen with other people, what are you like with God? Both Mathis and Bonhoeffer make the case that how well we listen to other people mirrors how well we listen to God. The one who is quick to listen to people will likely be quick to listen to God.