Possibly the most common argument against the existence of God, specifically of the Judaeo-Christian God, is the existence of suffering [1]. It’s expressed in this syllogism:

Premise 1 The Bible claims that God is good (loving) and all-powerful.
Premise 2 We suffer, or (more properly) evil exists.
Conclusion Therefore God is either not completely good (loving), or not all-powerful.

Either conclusion denies what the Bible tells us about God. Does this mean the Bible is invalid, so we have to choose between the Bible and the truth; between religion and reason? [2] Not at all; the syllogism is invalid because we assume that any or all of the eight statements below are true:

1. we should be able to comprehend God;
2. unjust suffering is evidence of the non-existence of (the Christian) God;
3. the Bible’s definition of good (loving) is the same as ours;
4. we don’t deserve to suffer;
5. suffering is pointless;
6. we can have freedom of choice and not be responsible for the consequences;
7. God hasn’t spoken to us about why we suffer; and
8. forgiveness is free, so there is no price to pay.

1. The Bible’s definition of “good” is the same as ours.
We naturally think that “good” means “pleasant”. It does not. What is good for us may not feel pleasant, or only much later in life, but not everything pleasant is good for us. Toddlers can be fussy about the food they want to eat; nevertheless, wise parents feed their children vegetables, even though it’s unpleasant for all involved. The armed forces have a proverb, “More sweat in training, less blood in battle.” The Bible states a similar thought: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, though, it produces a harvest…for those who have been trained by it” [3].

What the Bible means by “good” is what God says is so; however, He is neither fickle nor self-absorbed. For God, good is not what is easy or convenient – for me, you or Him. A thing is good when it is working as God wants it to. Of course, many of the acts we consider good are the same as those that God approves of: giving to the poor, helping the weak and defenceless, providing for your family and so on; however, we will eventually disagree with God about what He says is good: about sex, language, money, and relationships. Do we usurp His right to rule and assert that we know better than Him? Usually not – if God is God He has the right to say what is right and wrong – so we attack the messenger: “that’s figurative”; “that only applied to that culture at that time”; “the Bible has been changed by people in power”; “we know better now” [4].

When we assert that we know what is good and evil, right and wrong, we commit the same sin as Adam and Eve: this is what ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ means. Whether the tale is literal or figurative, Adam and Eve rejected God’s right to rule over them, and chose to decide for themselves what was good and evil, right and wrong. This is bad. It is bad news for those who think that Christianity is just about how we act. It isn’t. The reason for our life on earth is to show whether we’ll submit to God’s rule or demand our own. To those who don’t, God will not allow them into heaven – and they wouldn’t want to be there, because God is the centre of heaven and what He says, is.

2. We should be able to comprehend God.
Isaiah 55:8-9 asserts that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours, so it’s hardly astonishing if God acts in ways that we don’t understand. This isn’t astonishing: the understanding even of essential elements of our universe eludes us: gravity, dark matter, quantum mechanics, our own brains. We may achieve complete knowledge of these; even so, they are only part of creation, as we are. But our ability to comprehend God is on a par with the ability of a polonium 214 halo to comprehend the connection between King Charles I and Chopin’s “Heroic Polonaise”. The inferior can never comprehend the superior, nor the finite the infinite. If we could comprehend God, would He be worthy of our worship? Clearly not; we would be superior to Him.

3. Unjust suffering is evidence of the non-existence of (the Christian) God.
Why is it that some people seem to have a charmed life while others seem to be a magnet for misfortune? To regurgitate the quip “life is unfair” is merely a description not an explanation, and implies that God really isn’t in control or at most has nothing to do with our lives.

Unjust suffering has many causes, from negligence in manufacture to sadism to gaining and keeping power. We all know about the bloodguilt of people such as Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot and Idi Amin [5]. These are names made infamous by the thousands, even millions, of murders that can be credited to their accounts. But evil can be measured in more way than the number of people killed We humans can be nauseatingly cruel, and history provide us with more examples than anyone would want to know. Here is a selection of lesser known names in the records of inhumanity: Cesare Borgia, Gilles de Rais, Jean-Baptiste Carrier, the Beane family of Galloway, Hermann Mudgett, Fritz Haarman, and Carmen Galante.

If we claim the right to kill unborn children, saying we have the right to determine what lives or dies in our body, how can we claim that God is unjust if He exercises the same right? God owns the whole universe, by right of creation and also of power (no one can stop Him from doing exactly what He wants). This doesn’t mean that abortion is okay or that God is unjust: it means we want to do everything whatever we want and not take the consequences [6]. We want our rights without the corresponding responsibilities.

Human evil isn’t necessarily evidence of (the Christian) God’s non-existence: it could be that God lets us off the leash to show us what life is like when He doesn’t hold back human evil. In chapter one of Romans, Paul wrote that people chose to turn away from God – and God allowed them to go. The result was that the natural order of life is upset; in the way people relate to one another and to the world. When people throw off belief in a power higher than humanity and assert that “man [humanity] is the measure”, how do we determine whose measure is true, or best? Whose beliefs do we permit and whose do we prohibit? What value does the individual person have?

Yet not all suffering can be attributed to anyone’s direct action. In 1918-1919, Spanish influenza killed about 100,000 people world-wide, compared to 65 million people who died because of the First World War. But if this kind of suffering is caused by nature, not by people, how can it be called unjust? Justice is about fairness: how can an act of nature be called unjust? We may call it unjust in relation to what the person’s life should have been: dying at 6 months old instead of at 80; a young, skilful brain surgeon who develops Huntington’s Chorea; or what might John Merrick have otherwise been? These examples are a cause for sorrow but not for accusation of unfairness: nature and our genes are impersonal entities without reason, without emotion and without choice; they cannot be either fair or unfair, so to refer to ‘justice’ in the sense of ‘lost potential’ or ‘an accident of nature’ is meaningless. Only a being with the capacity for reason can be just or unjust, so when we say, as with the examples above, ‘It isn’t fair!’, we are implying that God rules over the world and that He is being unfair.

If we believe that God’s only purpose is to make our lives pleasant, it isn’t astonishing that suffering will cause us to deny either God’s sovereignty or His goodness. Even when we do understand that God has a purpose more significant than keeping us happy, or even satisfying our genuine desires, any unjust suffering is mystifying.

We have a choice: to believe that God is bigger than us, or that He doesn’t exist, or that He is either partly evil or not omnipotent. Whatever we choose, we still have to deal with the pain.

Not even believers are immune from suffering. Jesus’ final parable in the Sermon on the Mount (in the 8th chapter of Matthew) is that of two people who build a house (their life). One rejects Jesus and lives his life as he thinks right but the other builder trusts Jesus’ words. While the doom of the first and second are different, the same events (what life throws at them), are the same. Christians and non-believers experience the same kinds of suffering: neither are immune. Similarly, in Luke 13, Jesus implies that unjust suffering and even violent death are no indication of where someone stands with God. He doesn’t think that God’s sovereignty or goodness should be doubted because of a person’s experience. Again, consider the tale of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16: the rich man didn’t suffer; Lazarus did but neither the justice nor the goodness of God are called into question.

Now, what about the other side of the equation?

4. How often we do not suffer?
If unjust suffering is evidence of God’s non-existence, why does no one consider that pleasant days, full of friends and love and happiness are evidence for God’s existence? If you respond that this is invalid, then so is the argument that unjust suffering denies the existence, goodness or power of God.

Job, who suffered more than most of us will know, said, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). How many times have we thanked God for the good things he gives us: all our senses, freedom from pain, a job, a shelter, loving friends and family, a partner, comparative wealth? Some of us don’t have all these blessings, and some of us lose them through the course of life; nevertheless, how often do we thank God for those times when we experience pleasure, or are free of pain?

After the Fall, God cursed the earth because of Adam and Eve. Not only would food be difficult to grow, the climate would become harsh, and there would be dangers to our health. Solar radiation would cause mutations in our genetic code. The complete human genome comprises about 6.6 billion nucleotides; and alteration to only three can be fatal [7]. With the number of congenital illnesses people might be born with, or susceptible to, earlier generations might think that, like the rats who carried the bubonic plague through Europe, we are vermin that should be exterminated.

The western world has had the benefit of the Roman legal system and Judeo-Christian ethics which have protected us from the worst aspects of the rule of selfish and evil people. Living on or under the poverty line isn’t an enviable way to live, but it may be better than the alternative: according to a social/ economic researcher/ writer, the wealthier and more stable a society becomes, the more it moves toward ‘organic atheism’, which I think means that people just don’t give God the time of day. We believe that with a full bank account and a full fridge, we don’t need God. We indulge in the assumption that things will continue as they are now, and reject as ignorant and superstitious the belief that it is God who provides us with health to be able to work and the work that enables us to pay for the food and the sunlight and water and chemical reactions that enable the food to grow. But when things go wrong, we blame God…isn’t that unfair? It’s illogical, if nothing else.

We complain about unjust suffering – how do we react to unjust blessing? Why are we more likely to minimise the existence of pleasure and love as evidence for God, and emphasise the opposite? I think it is because we expect that a pleasant life should be the norm, and is what we deserve. This brings us to the next point.

5. We don’t deserve to suffer.
God is completely and perfectly good and loving. He is also perfectly just, so He must punish all evil, of every form and at every level: from genocide and rape to stealing a pen from your workplace or badmouthing a person behind their back.

The Bible says that no human is without evil – Romans 3:9-20 is a classic collection of verses – and so we all deserve punishment from God. “Big” sins like murder affect individuals and society more than does the theft of a pen: but the fact remains that sin is sin, and through one way or another, we are all guilty before God. God is perfectly just, so every act of evil must be punished. The one human who never rebelled against God is Jesus: it was only by living with perfect trust in God that Jesus could pay the penalty the rest of us incurred.

In the US Civil War, a soldier accused of some transgression was brought before Robert Lee, the commanding general of the Confederate army. Seeing the man was afraid, Lee said, “Don’t worry; you’ll get justice here.” The soldier replied, “Yes, General; that’s what I’m afraid of.” The man knew he deserved punishment. Likewise, can any of us picture a perfectly just God and believe that we have never done or thought or said anything bad? Would God pronounce you “not guilty”? If not, you’re in trouble – just like the rest of us.

Are you about to say that you aren’t a bad person – that at least you’re better than so-and-so – or are you excusing yourself by blaming other people for your imperfections? God will judge us perfectly: He can because He takes every factor into account; yet He holds each of us accountable. If He didn’t, if we weren’t responsible for our actions, this would mean we were little more than robots, that nothing we did mattered. Whichever we would prefer, we don’t have a choice; God holds us responsible, and judges us to be guilty.

We assume that doing bad things is our problem, and that if we lived a good life we’d be okay with God. If we were nicer to one another, life on Earth would be more pleasant; however, the heart of our problem is not what we do but what we are. We aren’t good people who do bad things: we are rebels, separatists, secessionists who deny God’s right to rule us. (Where is the child who naturally shares their toys, who doesn’t grab for the biggest piece of cake, who has to be taught to lie?)

How our rebellion began is described in the third chapter of Genesis. Adam and Eve are our parents (like gives birth to like) and they were also our representatives. Of course, we all think “that isn’t fair!” but think again: God made Adam and Eve perfect in every way: physically, emotionally and intellectually. Using television sets as an analogy, they were full colour, high definition, 180 inch, LCD flat screens with satellite reception but we are 1950s monochrome with a rabbit-ear aerial in a valley. Everyone sees perfectly in hindsight, but would we really have done better than they did?

When the topic of suffering arises, these are two foundational issues to hold in mind: God is perfectly just, and we are born rebels against Him – we are not morally neutral. No one likes this; nonetheless, the Bible states it explicitly and unequivocally. How then can we assert that we don’t deserve to suffer, we who are all offenders against the king?

Nevertheless, God does not punish us as we deserve. I mentioned earlier that no one complains about unjust blessing. On the cross at Golgotha, Jesus willingly – although not happily – took on himself the punishment that we earned by our rebellion against God’s rightful kingship, and His right to have His words determine our lives. Jesus’ death was a fulfilment of many predictions in the Old Testament that the Messiah would suffer in our place, such as these well known verses from Isaiah.

he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Romans 5:8 is one verse that speaks of God’s unjust blessing of us:

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

How many of us would let a person we love, a parent or child, die for a friend? In comparison, the Bible says that Jesus died for us when we were his enemies. More, 1 Timothy indicates that Jesus died even for those who reject Him: Paul writes about “God, the savior of all men and especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10). Consider the gods of other religions and see how they compare. The Christian God is the only one who met His creation on their ground, living as one of them. And look what happened: “they crucified him.” Are we humans naturally good? [8]

But Jesus’ substitution for us doesn’t mean we will all go to heaven. You may have heard someone say, “I know I’m going to heaven when I die because I’ve done my time in hell” [9]. The person who says this is assuming that heaven is a reward for doing good or as some form of karmic justice. But according to the Bible, this isn’t so: in Heaven, God rules; it’s either His way or He will put us outside His kingdom and we can try to make our own, including life, friends, food, meaning, work, and pleasure. But we will fail: who of us has the power to create from nothing simply by our words?

The justice of God is related to the concept of hell, which I’ve looked at elsewhere (and Timothy Keller’s article, “The importance of hell”, is worth reading). I know, or know of, people who have endured intense physical or emotional pain, acute and chronic (about 35 years and counting), such as twisted intestines, migraines, kidney stones; bullying, rape, torture, murder and child abuse. I don’t know how they have endured the pain without committing suicide. Nevertheless, from the Bible’s description of hell – and Jesus talked more about the subject than anyone else – it is worse than anything this life can throw at us. I can only imagine how, but Jesus said it was so. As deity incarnate who also suffered separation from God (which is the essence of hell) in our place, I suspect his word is authoritative.

But God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, which is why Jesus died in our place. The daughter of Cornelius van Til once asked him, if Jesus died for us why do people still die? He thought for a while and then replied to her with another question: what would you rather be hit by, a truck or the shadow of that truck? Sensibly, she answered, the shadow. Van Til said, Jesus was hit by the truck of our sin, so that we are only hit by its shadow.

If God has protected us from being hurt, we probably won’t know it. In the Bible we find commands about what we should and should not do. We also find tales that relate what happened when people rejected those commands. The episode of King David and Bathsheba is a classic instance – and that is no doubt another result of that sin that even three thousand years later people use it as an instance of what might happen if we reject God’s commands.

6. Suffering is pointless.
As we think that good equals pleasure, so we also think that anything unpleasant is necessarily bad but the equation is false: pleasure and discomfort are subjective, internal experiences, not objective, external values. Only beings able to make moral decisions can be good or bad. (Saying that something is good or bad for you is a figure of speech, meaning that what’s good for you may now be unpleasant (!) but will ultimately give you a more healthy or comfortable life.) Pain and suffering are unpleasant rather than bad, and it’s normal for us to want unpleasantness to stop. Of course, an act that causes pain – such as betrayal – might be wrong; however, the experience resulting from the act is just that: an experience; unpleasant but having no inherent moral value.

In the Bible God deals both directly and indirectly with the topic of suffering and its causes. A couple of examples:

“Why is my lord weeping?” asked Hazael.
“Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,” [Elisha] answered. “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.”
Hazael said, “How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?”
“The LORD has shown me that you will become king of Aram,” answered Elisha. (2 Kings 8:12-13)

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us –
he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks. (Psalm 137:7-9)

In chapter eight of Deuteronomy, God mentions several reasons He might use suffering: to keep us humble in all circumstances; to make us turn to Him and teach us to depend on Him; to test our faithfulness to Him; and over all, God uses suffering for our ultimate good, which is to bring us into a proper relationship with Him. This is discipline. We suffer when we are disciplined and when we are punished; but the two are not the same. Punishment looks backward to something we did, and shouldn’t have done; discipline looks forward to what we might be, and should become. This is what the author of the letter to the Hebrews says:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11) [10]

The book of Job deals explicitly with the issue of suffering and the justice of God. Job is the object of what is, speaking crudely, a wager between God and Satan to determine the answer to the question, “Will a person honour God no matter what their circumstances are? Or are people only motivated by what they can get?” It is a variant of the temptation in the Garden of Eden.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the preacher tries to make sense of life through thinking about his experiences and those of others. He can’t give us an answer: he sees that good and bad experiences happen to everyone, without apparent reason.

When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth…then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning… (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17).

The preacher’s conclusion is that we should find what enjoyment we can because none of us know what will happen to us, or when; however, his final word is:

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Suffering can remind us that we are not as much in control of our bodies and lives as we like to think. Pain might make us turn to God: its effect depends on how we choose to deal with it. Nevertheless, we won’t always react consistently: we might try to do the right thing even when we’re suffering, but bitterness, anger and self-pity can still grip us occasionally. Amos 4:6-12 gives four examples of suffering – famine, drought, destruction of crops and plague, and each one is followed with the refrain “but you have not returned to me.” Again, in Revelation 9 and 16, people experience the devastation of the environment and personal illness, and they “gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done” (Rev. 16:10-11).

In Acts 17, Paul said that God has determined where and how long each of us will live, so that we ‘would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him’ (verse 27). If we didn’t see or experience suffering, we might never think about God or the meaning of life and what happens after we die. God might use suffering as a ‘heads-up’ to us, so that we might think about life and death and purpose and God and ourselves. The Bible says that God has a plan for the universe and for every single person. This plan is bring all creation together under the rule of Christ, and to bring glory to Himself as we see and confess how He has been patient, just, merciful and gracious to each of us in myriad ways (Ephesians 1:9-10; Romans 9:22-24) [11].

Suffering can make us greater people – able to sympathise with others and help them; able to endure petty disappointments – but it doesn’t make the experience good or pleasant [12]. We may never see the benefit of any suffering (such as the chronic pain from a bungled operation) but we should hold on to God’s promise:

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) [13]

7. We can have freedom of choice and not experience suffering.
If God were to stop us when we were going to do something wrong we’d become like robots, without freedom of choice. We’d eventually become so used to being stopped when we were going to do something wrong that we’d stop trying to do them. And then we’d gradually become desensitised to the idea that we could do anything other than what God wanted. There would be no suffering, but there would also be no freedom and no love.

To love someone is a choice – not a feeling; that’s being in love – and if we allow a person the choice to love us in return, they might choose to reject us. If God is love, He must allow us the freedom to reject Him. If we reject Him as the rightful ruler over our lives, which is the right, loving, response to Him, then any other way we choose to live will be based on another authority, which is usually ourselves. At some point this authority will disagree with what God says and when we trust that authority our relationships, with other people and with the environment, will become discordant, and someone will suffer, whether us, other people or both.

If a person wants to waste their money on alcohol, getting drunk every weekend, they can do that, but they shouldn’t be astonished if they get liver or brain damage. Similarly with smoking, except that second-hand smoke damages other people’s health as well. If you don’t care about the many health problems that the scores of chemicals in a tailor-made cigarette can cause you or others – spend a day visiting cancer patients, and don’t stand closer than 100 metres to me, my family and friends.

Women are free to wear high heels as long as they don’t mind the damage it does to their posture. Likewise, people are free to wear whatever they want, to show off their bodies, to appear in pornographic magazines but, ladies, don’t expect men to be inspired by your ambition or admire your work ethic. If females never learn anything else about males, it should be that males are attracted primarily by sight. Sure, everyone knows that looks aren’t all there is to a person; nevertheless, we assume too much about a person by judging their physical appearance. Moreover, first impressions (taking between thirty seconds and four minutes to form) are difficult to change. If the first time a guy sees a girl, she is displaying herself naked in the impersonal form of a magazine or video, what impression will he form of her character?

The Bible has many examples of suffering as a result of a choice. One of these is in Numbers 14. In verse 33, God tells the Israelites that because of their unfaithfulness, they will continue to be nomads until the last of them has died. This means that the children also suffer because of the parents’ decision not to obey God. Another example is found in chapter one of the letter to the Romans. Verse 21 says

although [people] knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

In the next nine verses, one phrase appears three times: “God gave them over”. People didn’t want to acknowledge and obey the true God, so God let them go there own way. In part, that was their punishment. They chose to be free of God, and He allowed them that choice, and also its consequences. You can read the results for yourself in verses 29-32.

8. Forgiveness means there is no price to pay.
This statement is a half-truth. The person who is forgiven pays nothing because the person who forgives pays everything. If we want to obtain or repair a thing, we have to pay the price: for example, if our child breaks a lamp, we have to pay for a new one. Likewise, if someone smears our character and we forgive them, we still have to bear the consequences of the other person’s false accusation if other people believe them and treat us badly. We still have to deal with the natural anger and desire for justice that their lies raise in us. As often as these feelings rise in us, we will have to deal with them ourselves and not vent them on the other person.

When Jesus died on the cross at Golgotha, he paid the penalty that our rebellion against God earned. This would be unfair to Jesus, it would be “cosmic child abuse” (as one person put it), if he wasn’t full deity. But as God is the lawmaker and judge, He can both deliver the sentence and take it upon Himself. He paid everything, so we now owe nothing. But again, being forgiven doesn’t mean everyone will go to Heaven. Forgiveness must be accepted. If we won’t accept a gift, we won’t gain the benefit. If we won’t walk out of the open prison door, we’re as good as prisoners even though we’ve been pardoned.

With these several aspects to consider, the original syllogism is clearly too simplistic to do justice to the topic of God and suffering.

Troy Grisgonelle

[1] The study of suffering in relation to (the Christian) God is called theodicy.
[2] This is a false dichotomy: making it seem as though there are only two options.
[3] Hebrews 12:11.
[4] This belief is the same that Adam and Eve committed: eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Whether the tale is literal or figurative, what it means is that Adam and Eve sought to decide for themselves what was good and evil; right and wrong. Essentially, they rejected God’s right to rule over them, and sought to control their lives.
[5] Stalin himself is responsible, at least partly, for the murder of about 20 million Russians, as Mao Zedong (Tse Tung) is responsible for the deaths of at least 38 million Chinese people. Saloth Sar (better known as Pol Pot), ruler of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, is responsible for the murder of approximately 2 million Cambodians, at least 15% of the country’s population5. Idi Amin, military dictator of Uganda from 1971-1979, is responsible for the murder of about 300,000 people. When the electricity failed in the late afternoon it was because the bodies of Amin’s victims, thrown into the river, blocked the Owen Falls hydroelectric generator.
[6] There are several issues and “but what about” questions involved in this paragraph that beg to be asked and answered. I’ve looked at these elsewhere.
[7] One side of the DNA ladder carries approximately 3.3 billion nucleotides, so both sides (one side from each parent) will be 6.6 billion, and any one of the nucleotides could be altered, even though there are biological proofreaders that go along the ladder checking for mistakes.
We should note that only approximately 5% (325 million) of the 6.6 billion nucleotides carries information used in the human biological blueprint. The other 95% is called ‘non-coding DNA’ and we don’t know what, if anything, it does. As with the appendix and tonsils, further research may discover it has some role. Nevertheless, accurately copying 325 million nucleotides – in the right series – so often with such a low rate of deviation is a staggering achievement by any reckoning.
[8] Does a person actually get falsely accused and murdered just for telling people to be nice to one another?
[9] I believe that at least part of the phrase originated with the United States Marine Corps who served in the Pacific during World War II.
[10] Yes, I’m aware that verse 6 mentions discipline and punishment in parallel. I would say that God may allow us to experience the physical outcomes of our sin – like being put in gaol if we steal – and, as well as payment for our sin, this is for our good; partly as a deterrent (whether or not we allow it to affect us like that depends on what kind of person we are).
[11] Glorifying yourself sounds self-centred and egotistical, except that God is the centre and source of life and joy and everything good, and He has sacrificed Himself for us to an inestimable degree; so it is right that He should seek His own glory. If He told us that there was greater glory and joy in something else, He would be lying. It’s similar to saying ‘2+2=4’ or ‘No one goes to Heaven except through Jesus’ – it’s either true or false. Arrogance or humility is a different issue.
[12] And it begs the question why God doesn’t stop suffering, and that brings us back to the purpose of this essay.
[13] The promise may seem ineffectual and cold comfort in the face of suffering, but our need isn’t relief from suffering, it’s our need to be pardoned, so we can survive facing a righteous God.