Travis is Husband to Jillian and father to four precious children. He serves as a pastor to students at Woodlawn Baptist Church and is a PhD student in Biblical Counseling. Follow his work here.
When one turns on the news, sees their social media feed, or looks into their own life, it isn’t hard to see the great quantity of evil and suffering at work in our world. It is an undeniable part of our daily existence, and around the holiday season that sense of evil, while contrary to the joviality of Christmas, can linger in a way that brings great sorrow and sadness to those under its dark cloud.
For some, it is the first Christmas without that family member who passed away earlier this year or it is the potent evil of strife, contention, or bitterness against one another that you wish could be overcome, so that you might be joyfully united as one family again. Often because of these circumstances questions arise within our hearts, “How could a good God allow this evil to take place in the world?” While these thoughts are not uncommon, they are important to find an answer too. What if I told you that every Christmas season that answer is proclaimed all around you? What if the answer to these big questions is something you’ve overlooked? The answer is sung, read, and proclaimed as the reason for the season. It is even the title of Christmas!
The answer to the problem of evil and suffering is the coming of Jesus Christ.
You might ask, “Is it really that simple? This sounds cliché.” Yes, it is simple to state it, but it is more than a mere doctrinal proposition. It is reality. This is God’s world we live in. He is the sovereign Creator of it all, and we live in his true, good, and beautiful story of reality.
At the beginning of this story sin entered the picture through man’s rebellion to God. But even in God’s judgment of Adam, he made a promise to redeem mankind from the Fall. We celebrate the coming of this promise every Christmas. The incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus is fully God and fully man possessing in his essence the perfection of Deity because He is God, and having the body and nature of man, tempted like we are, yet without sin.
What is amazing about Jesus is how vivid his humanity is as you read the Gospels. In John’s Gospel we see the record of his encounter with Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus died. Jesus works a powerful miracle to raise him from the dead, claiming He is the resurrection and the life. But in between this proclamation of his identity and the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus we see the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”
Why did Jesus weep? He wept because he loved his friend Lazarus and because of the suffering and pain caused by sin and death. We see his humanity in this moment during the moment of grief and affection. He wept. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.” Jesus relates to us in our suffering because he has also suffered.
It is easy for us to view God as far off and not caring for us because of the daily instances of evil that we see in our world. Some might even say, “I thought God was good, why am I going through something so hard and evil?!” Maybe you think God gets off the hook and even though you believe he exists, you don’t want anything to do with him because you just wish he would’ve intervened. C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It’s his megaphone to rouse a deaf world because suffering is such a difficult part of existence, and God has an answer for it. Pain is that megaphone that he often uses to direct our attention to a solution outside of ourselves.
As Peter Kreeft said, “We began with the mystery, not just of suffering but of suffering in a world supposedly created by a loving God. How to get God off the hook? God’s answer is Jesus. Jesus is not God off the hook but God on the hook. That’s why the doctrine of the divinity of Christ is crucial: If that is not God there on the cross but only a good man, then God is not on the hook, on the cross, in our suffering. And if God is not on the hook, then God is not off the hook. How could he sit there in heaven and ignore our tears?”
You see, the truth is, we can have hope during the Christmas season because of Jesus, the one who wept and experienced suffering and death in the most gruesome way—on the cross. Christmas looks at his coming to die for our sin and rise again from the grave. This hope changes how we view the evil and suffering we face. My hope for you is that this Christmas you might trust in the One who would love to wipe away your tears.