Hot Topics series continues with a hard rock look at a tough question that all of us ask: why do good people suffer?
Stavesacre has been storming the scene of rock and roll since the mid-90’s and their sound has always been a shining gold star among the Christian attempts at loud music. Their self-titled (or pronounciation-titled?) album was one of their most critically acclaimed and within it, they tackled this subject head on. “Why Good People Suffer” is an honest and humble dialogue about what this perplexing question should cause us to really think about, listen:
i tell you what i want to
never more than what is safe
i show you what i want to
and the rest i hide away
sometimes i can feel myself leaning
towards the basest of things
am i just a liar? or a killer? or a beast?
should i sit in judgement?
do i have to judge me?
i couldn’t tell you why good people suffer
i couldn’t tell you why the bad ones run free
God showers blessings
on the righteous and the wicked
i only know that that covers me
do i feel like screaming
when the weak fall to the strong?
would i trade my freedom for a cheap thrill?
right for wrong?
and if i could just rid the world of all the evil within
would that include me?
i guess that would depend
who am i?
When you write a song about such a difficult issue it is important to set a tone. Stavesacre is clearly out to answer a big question with another important question: Is there anyone out there who is really good? Smartly, he points the finger at himself first. There is an empathy for those who burn with the flame of injustice. But the overarching theme to this song is that none of us are “good” enough to judge who should suffer and who should be blessed.
What does the Bible say about this question?
Psalmists write several times about similar questions that they have for God: God, why do my enemies flourish while I am dying? God, why have you abandoned me? God, why is my righteousness not rewarded? But in each case, the psalmist praises God despite still having unanswered “why” questions. Job stands in the position of first-in-line, in terms of people who deserve to ask God these kinds of questions. Yet, his summary of these things is to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b)
How does Job get to this conclusion and is it the right one? Let’s allow Apostle Paul to help answer this from Romans 9:
14 Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! 15 For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”
16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it. 17 For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” 18 So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.
19 Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”
20 No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? 22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. 23 He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.
Heavy words to go with a heavy song and a heavy question. The summary of it all is this: Why does God allow good people to suffer? First, none of us are good on our own – not good enough at least to have the right to even ask God this question (see verse 20). Second, all of us deserve to be called “vessels of wrath”, BUT God has chosen out of His love and mercy to show us His grace.
He shows His grace to the entire world every day by holding back the full potential of evil and destruction. Things could and should be a lot worse. He also shows His complete grace to those who believe in His Son. He promises to all true believers an eternal future of perfect joy and a pain-free, tear-free life with Him in paradise.
These answers don’t necessarily make us feel better about today’s troubles. Sometimes, we even feel like shouting back at God and saying, “Hey! I need more from You! More answers and more help!” Feeling this way is OK. The Psalmists and Job and others obviously did the same thing. Acting upon those feelings is a different story.
Just remember one thing: at the end of the day, God is more merciful than we could ever imagine. He is not cruel, He is holy. You and I wouldn’t really want a God who didn’t stand up for Himself. Today, people suffer (good people and bad people alike). Tomorrow, the heavens will open wide and Jesus will call home His own. That is a real hope to cling to, no matter how many “why” questions are left unanswered.