“The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.”—C.S. Lewis
That's the concise way to look at the problem of pain and evil. Things like this are all in the way we look at them. Usually, when addressing the problem of evil, we start from “why should bad things happen to good people,” which is somewhat problematic. We ought to ask why we should not begin with the inverse: “why should good things happen to bad people?” Now, I know a many people I consider really good, nice people, but at the same time, I know that none of us is good when placed in comparison to the ultimate touchstone: God.
Christians should neither spend all their time listening to readings of Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, nor should we become convinced that we deserve good. Jesus says His way will be hard. He also tells us that His yoke is easy. Both are true. Life does not get any easier when one believes in Jesus in many ways, but at the same time, to know that there is a future hope makes all the difference. We are given a center to our life; our compass no longer simply spins around in no particular direction.
“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.”
It is all very much a paradox. Lewis reminds us not to start telling everyone how much consultation faith always is. It is not. Things still hurt. Loved ones still die and leave us feeling their absence. The existence of an all powerful God only makes it more painful, since we know that God could intervene. We have that hope that His plans will work out in the future, but we are still stuck with both feet in the present. On the other hand, sometimes we don't need to be made to feel better so much as just to know that God has been there on the same journey we are on — and He has.
“[Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”—Philippians 2.7-8 (NIV)
As I noted in my Good Friday meditation, this is only scratching the surface. Jesus not only walked the same Earth, felt the same feelings and then died a horrid death, but He also took upon our sins and was forsaken from the Father. When we feel pain, we only feel a tidbit of the pain of Jesus. This may not make everything easier, but it puts things into perspective.
So long as I am on this earth, not everything will make sense. That's where faith comes in. I have faith that God is a perfect God, and therefore know that I deserve nothing. More importantly, I have faith that God loves me anyway, even if I cannot always understand why everything happens the way it does. As Karl Barth said when asked to summarize his theology: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”