One of the questions that arises during a time of hardship and national crisis is: “Why would a good God allow difficulties, suffering, evil and death?” This question rests on an assumption that transcends our society. The assumption is that human happiness, prosperity, pleasure and comfort are the essential goals of life. As a nation, we have fervently pursued these goals for many years. We have further assumed that anything which interferes with those objectives cannot be good and must be overcome.
The late Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, said that undergoing suffering and difficulty do not lead to meaninglessness. On the contrary, meaninglessness is found in the unbridled pursuit of pleasure. The outcome of this pursuit of pleasure in America for the last five or more decades has been a society wrecked by unrestrained selfishness. Consequently, the degree of disillusionment, anger, division and hopelessness is perhaps the greatest it has been within the nation since the time of the Civil War of the 1860s.
The answers to our social ills are not to be found in systems. Instead, they are found in Christ. Yet, Jesus Himself interferes with our human pursuits of happiness and pleasure. In fact, Jesus modeled self-denial and self-sacrifice. He even said He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus calls us to lives of humility, contrition, forgiveness and reconciliation. He calls us to deny ourselves daily (Matthew 16:24), not pursue self-glorification. This is because the ultimate purpose and goal of human life is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Romans 8:29 tells us, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
God will orchestrate whatever is necessary in our lives to bring us first to repentance and salvation, and second, to conformance to His image. We live in days when God is calling every person to lay down their selfish pursuits to seek Him with all our hearts. (Matthew 22:37). Let it be so!
Dr. Robert Russell is lead pastor at Celebration Church in Blountville.