Reasonable Doubt that God is Good

The greatest challenge to the Christian faith is the fact of suffering. They have done surveys and asked people, “What is it that keeps you from believing in God?” The number one answer that comes up repeatedly is the problem of pain. Let’s look at some realities about the problem of pain

The problem of pain is the #1 Problem

Woman from MyanmarGreat suffering like the Holocaust or smaller disappointments like losing your job, or having a loved one who despite all your prayers remains unhealed is a significant challenge to our faith.

“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart”—Psalm 73:1

The Problem of Pain is the Problem for Theology 101

Sometimes there seems to be exceptions to reaping and sowing. Sometimes life hits us in a way that challenges the idea that God is good.

So, Asaph looks at his life and life around him and he almost falls into unbelief or at least despair.

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold”— Psalm 73:2.

Why is Asaph’s foot almost slipping?

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning”—Psalm 73:13-14.

Now, Asaph does not tell us the nature of his problem. Maybe he had a chronic illness, a pain that kept him up all night. Whatever it is there is a problem.

If you are in pain, or you have a child or a parent or a spouse or some other loved one who is in pain, please know that throughout the history of the Christian church we read of many wonderful men and women, men and women who love God and who followed him more closely than any of their contemporaries, who suffered with great bodily pain.

Here is the real issue: There is this is Basic Theology 101.

“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart”—Psalm 73:1

But, my basic experience is:

“Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence”—Psalm 73:13

He is the struggle. It does not seem to matter what I do. It does not seem to matter if I pray or not. If I seek God’s face or not. If I obey or not. So why bother? I love the brutal honesty of Asaph

The problem of pain is a problem for everyone.

Blind evolution is naturalistic evolution that pain has no rhyme or reason behind it. That natural selection depends on death, destruction, and violence of the strong against the weak then pain and suffering should not be a problem for them. But, in reality pain is still a problem for everyone.

Asaph also looks at the successful people around:

3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. 11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”—Psalm 73:3-11

The psalmist sees the successful, ungodly person so well. He sees their wickedness and the “good stuff” that goes his or her way.

And the psalmist says: “What gives, God? These folks spit in your face. They blaspheme you. They deny your knowledge. They deny your existence. They deny your judgment. They abuse your people. They hate your people. They make movies about your people. And yet, you seem to bless them.”

The bottom line – this normal man does not understand what he sees.

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me”—Psalm 73:16

The problem of pain is the problem of understanding

Asaph doesn’t understand his pain in light of the what “good stuff” is going to the evil. We want to understand our pain. We want to understand God.

When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny”—Psalm 73:16-17.

Where does Asaph go to understand his pain? The study, the university library, the hang-out with my friend, the bar?

The problem of pain is a problem that is helped in the sanctuary

Asaph goes to the temple where heaven and earth come together. He goes to church to hear from God and to hear God’s Word and His Will proclaimed with others.

  1. In the sanctuary, I discover that God is just.

Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies”—Psalm 73:18-20.

God will judge and even the score. His justly may move slower than I want but it will move forward.

  1. In the sanctuary, I discovered that my feelings are not final

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

What I discovered is that I don’t know all that God is doing. I can allow myself to become so embittered that I cannot see what God is doing around me”—Psalm 73:21-22.

  1. In the sanctuary, I discover that Jesus is present

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you”—Psalm 73:23-28

  1. In the sanctuary, I discover that God is good.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds—Psalm 73:26.

Because Jesus is with me and for me, I know that God is good.

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