WHAT IS GOD LIKE?

#15 GOD IS INCREDIBLY PATIENT

 

Many people question God on two counts: on the one hand, they say 'Why does God allow so much suffering?' And on the other hand, they say 'Why doesn't Jesus Christ hurry up and come back?'

The answer to both of these questions is the incredible patience of God.

It is necessary to state, first of all, that at a fundamental level God does not 'allow' suffering. Suffering, in fact, was excluded by God's 'you must not ... or you will surely die' in Genesis 2:17. In that word 'die' all the suffering of the world is included, and in the words 'must not' is God's prohibition not only of sin, but also of all suffering that would automatically result from sin. Sin and suffering is in the world by our human choice, not by God's choice. The only points at which God's choice is involved are (1) his choice to create us unprogrammed by mechanical or instinctive means, and (2) his choice to allow us to continue to exist after we rebelled against him and brought suffering into the world.

God, by his commands, outlaws sin and the suffering it inevitably causes. He, for example, commands us to love one another. When we disobey this command we inevitably cause suffering.

At one time, when sin was at saturation point, God intervened in earth's history to put an end to the suffering caused human sin. He stopped the suffering with a worldwide flood by which he destroyed the whole human race except a family of eight. 'The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had becme, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain' [Genesis 6:5,6]. Note the absolutes in this statement: 'every inclination of the thoughts', 'only evil', 'all the time'. The human suffering generated by this totality of evil is unimaginable. Note also the pain that God felt.

If we are asking God to stop suffering, then we are asking him to terminate human existence, for we inevitably sin, and every time we sin we inflict suffering on ourselves or others. Do we really want God to do that? To send another world-wide catastrophe like the flood?

When Jesus Christ returns he will return as the Judge. The day of his return will be the Day of Judgment - the day on which all sin and all suffering will be terminated, not just in a temporary way as it was with the flood, but in a final and permanent way [Revelation 21:4; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26].  Do those who have not received his forgiveness really want that day to come? Do those of us who have unsaved family and friends really want him to return before they acknowledge him? Would we not rather live with the suffering while God in his great patience and forbearance delays the return of his Son?

The Bible tells us that the very reason the return of Christ, with its accompanying judgment,  is delayed, is 'he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance' [read 2 Peter 3:3-15].

Let us think twice before we accuse God of being unloving, or unfair, or hard, or slack. Let us think twice before we blame him for 'allowing suffering'. In his immense patience with us, in the abundance of his grace, he allows us to exist, even though we suffer and cause suffering, giving us time to repent and acknowledge him before the Judgment Day, before he will deal completely with sin and suffering, banishing them forever.

One might ask 'Why bother?' Why not just snuff out human existance and be done with all?

Because, beyond this life, beyond the pain, beyond the judgment day, there is eternal life - life that is so joyous and so glorious that our present suffering is rendered insignificant [Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-9].

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007