Answers for one of our oldest dilemmas

by John MacArthur
(Foreword from Walking through Shadows)

5 August 2002

Why do righteous people suffer? Why do the worst things sometimes happen to the best of people? Those questions go to the heart of one of the most difficult and most persistent of all metaphysical problems.

It is also one of the oldest dilemmas facing the human race. The Book of Job—probably the earliest book in the Old Testament canon—was written to explore those very questions. Job's experience not only gives us a window into the workings of the spirit world; it also reminds us that even in the midst of our sufferings, God is worthy of our praise. In fact, suffering properly viewed is a reason to praise God, not to doubt Him. In the end, God reminds Job that as Creator and Lord of all, He is utterly sovereign and has every right to do whatever He chooses without needing to justify himself to anyone. He isn't obligated to answer all the questions we raise. He doesn't owe us any explanations. And yet God has graciously given us much in the way of revealed truth and precious promises that can help us understand and endure our sufferings. Consider, for example, what God has told us about himself: He is good. He is pure light in whom there is no darkness at all. He is worthy of our absolute trust and loyalty. He is gracious and full of tender mercy. He sovereignly controls everything that happens, so that no matter how chaotic and turbulent the circumstances of life may seem, we're not to think God has lost control. He limits our temptations to no more than we can endure, and He provides a way of escape from all evil enticements. He gives us grace to endure the trials of life, and strength and comfort to withstand the pain of suffering. He never changes, never wavers, never slumbers or sleeps—and never lets even the tiniest sparrow out of His sight. Best of all, He promises to make all things work together for the ultimate good of those who love Him.

All those things are germane to the problem of suffering. Anyone who genuinely believes those truths and trusts those promises ought to find them sufficient even if not completely satisfying to our intellectual curiosity. But sometimes our trials are so grievous, and evil circumstances seem so oppressive, that our emotions overwhelm our minds, and what we feel dominates and threatens to overcome what we know. Every thoughtful person at one time or another will still long for a better understanding or a more thorough explanation of why God allows so much suffering. That is especially true in this era of war, suicide bombings, and terrorist attacks.

Ken Ham and Carl Wieland have written [Walking through Shadows] to address these difficult issues. They write with passion and empathy, as only those who know suffering firsthand can do. They also write with sound biblical insight, allowing the clear light of Scripture to illuminate the dark corners of the problem of suffering.

Scripture says one of the reasons God allows us to suffer is so that He can comfort us and thus equip us to comfort others in their suffering (2 Cor. 1:3–4). Ken and Carl have found rich consolation from the heart of God in their own sufferings, and one of the beautiful fruits of that suffering is this book. Many will find it a rich source of comfort and encouragement in the midst of their trials. Others will find biblical help for questions that may have long troubled them. All will be reminded of the goodness of God to His people and His precious promise that the sufferings of this present time are not even worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us throughout all eternity.

Published: 3 February 2006