Why a Suffering World Makes Sense

Why a Suffering World Makes Sense

Many of God's attributes can be seen in a perfect environment—his love, power, wisdom, and more. But many would remain forever invisible unless the imperfect had come. His mercy and all it entails—deliverance, healing, comfort—would be hidden if this world had not fallen.

Why a Suffering World Makes Sense unveils the reason we live in such a broken world, and it isn't just about building our character. It's about revealing God's glory. When we allow him to reveal himself in our lives, the benefit of glory will always outweigh the costs in the end.

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Baker 2006, paperback


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Imagine being allowed to hear a conversation within the Holy Trinity before the foundation of the world. Granted, it's a huge stretch of the imagination for us fallen mortals, but try anyway. Suppose you're a privileged angel in the throne room of God, and you hear the counsel within the Godhead of how to make himself known in all of his attributes. Suppose no rebellion has yet occurred. All heaven is in order. Obedient angels sing God's praises. All is light, and there is no darkness at all. No conflict. No violence. No bitterness. Just peace and joy in the presence of God. Here God can demonstrate his holiness, his love, the radiance of his glory, his wisdom, his kindness, and a host of other attributes. After all, it is his inclination to share himself. He has created all things in order to be known and loved for who he is, and there is an appreciative audience in this heaven that honors his perfect character and rejoices in it. As far as it can.

But there are aspects of his character that cannot be known in this heavenly context. There is no framework for understanding some of his most precious attributes, no canvas on which he can spread out his most beautiful colors. From your imaginary privileged position, would you hear the angels singing praises for God's mercy? If so, on what basis? To whom was he merciful before the rebellion? Would you hear of his ability to deliver, heal, and defend? How? Whom did he deliver, heal, or defend before the Fall?

In your innocent eavesdropping on the conversation within the Trinity, some of these concepts may sound strange to your ears—mercy, forgiveness, deliverance, healing. You know of God's intense desire to be known, but you have no frame of reference for understanding any of these things. They're hidden attributes in this perfect milieu. If you continued listening to the Triune conversation, you might hear how the staging of another context might occur. And, in the process, you would understand how the perfections of heaven are an unsuitable reference pont for many of the most glorious attributes of our God. How, for example, can a merciful God show mercy in a world that has not erred? How can he show himself as Warrior or Conqueror without enemies? How can he show himself as Deliverer unless there is a captivity? Or Refuge unless there is a threat? Or Healer unless there is a sickness? Or Forgiver unless wrongs have been committed? He can't. There are no logical options for displaying these characteristics without there first being objects of mercy, deliverance, healing, and so on. And for these objects to be present, the imperfect has to come. 

Or what if, at the time of your heavenly privilege of overhearing sacred plans, there had already been an angelic rebellion? Perhaps Lucifer had already attempted his coup and was under the impending judgment of God. We can envision him, according to his accusing nature, leveling blasphemous charges against the Creator he once worshiped. "You're unmerciful," he might say if he'd ever contemplated the concept of mercy. "You're incapable of redeeming your own creation. You're not as loving as you suggest. You aren't in control after all, are you? We can go to depths where you cannot follow."

This is not a far-fetched conversation if we are to believe Job 1. In that text, the adversary charges that God's good attributes are effective only when all is well in his creation. The clear accusation is that God's goodness is not enough to sustain a creature in turmoil, that somehow his love extends only so far and no farther, that all of his good attributes are deficient somehow, or severely limited. They don't apply in worst-case scenarios. Perhaps this creation we're a part of is a contradiction of the adversary's slanderous charge. Perhaps God said, "There's a side of me you just don't understand. My mercy can extend to the very depths of depravity. You haven't seen anything yet." And, behold, our world was spoken into existence.

© 2006 by Chris Tiegreen

©2013-present by chris tiegreen