This is the book I'll be referring to a lot in the next couple of posts. As I said last time, I'm no theologian, so I'm happy to defer to Randy Alcorn on most of what I'll be sharing. I want to be sure it's clear that these thoughts are not original with me. Some of what he says is hard to hear, but I think there's real value in it.
A Barna poll asked, "If you could ask God only one question and you knew He would give you an answer, what would you ask?" The most common response was, "Why is there pain and suffering in the world?" John Stott says, "The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unfair. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God's justice and love." The problem of evil in the world is sometimes used as the "ultimate trump card" to argue against the Christian faith. Atheists often use this argument to "prove" that God does not exist.
Now here's the statement from Randy (I think I've read enough of his books to be on a first-name basis with him!) that really struck me: A faith that leaves us unprepared for suffering is a faith that deserves to be lost. He quotes John Piper: "Wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians. And wimpy Christians won't survive the days ahead." Then he quotes Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl: "Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them." He says that when people lose their faith because of suffering, it's usually a weak or nominal faith that doesn't account for or prepare them for evil or suffering, and that any faith not based on the truth needs to be lost.
Here come the big guns....He says, "If you base your faith on lack of affliction, your faith lives on the brink of extinction and will fall apart because of a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call. Token faith will not survive suffering, nor should it. Losing your faith may be God's gift to you. Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the true God--faith that can pass, and even find strength in, the most formidable of life's tests."
Whew! Food for thought, huh? That's enough for one night...More to follow on another day.