Suffering Happens. And We Don’t Blame God? Really?

I’m not sure what I think about this new survey about suffering and God.

Just so you know, I do love reading research. I always have.

This new survey from Pew Research poll found that while most Americans believe in God, very few hold God responsible for the bad things that happen in life.

Oh really? So those broken-hearted people whom I talk to in my regular life as a pastor are outliers? So the people deconstructing their faith publicly on blogs, vlogs, and social media aren’t angry at God? They aren’t deconstructing God and creating a belief system that fits their own image? (I’ve been a youth pastor for 40 years. This has been happening for 40 years, at least.) So I am part of the 30% who does get angry at God?

Oh really?

From the research:

“Instead, Americans tend to think pain and suffering are the result of either individual choices, structural issues or some mix of both. 61 percent of respondents said “suffering is mostly a consequence of people’s own actions,” while 69 percent said “suffering is mostly a result of the way society is structured.” A little over half said it’s both.

“80 percent of Americans say people–not God–are responsible for suffering, while 50 percent and 44 percent, respectively, say suffering is part of God’s plan or is Satan’s fault. Only a slim minority–16 percent–say suffering makes them doubt God’s power or his love. Meanwhile, 70 percent say they either rarely or never feel angry at God when bad things happen.

“When they hear about terrible things happening to people, most Americans said they feel thankful for the good things in their own lives (71%) and sad for those who are suffering (62%). Ten percent said they were happy for others’ suffering because they deserved it.

“Half of Americans, the survey found, endorse the idea that God chooses “not to stop the suffering in the world because it is part of a larger plan.” And 44% said “Satan is responsible for most of the suffering in the world.”  Evangelicals and Black Protestants were especially likely to take this position.

How logical these majority Americans are. Because when you think deeply about the pain that we all do get to suffer through at some time (no one is exempt from pain, not even Christians), this research sounds reasonable. Suffering is definitely due to consequences. Suffering is definitely due to a broken world. Satan is real and a real force that wants to steal, kill, and destroy. God is definitely a larger story God.

How logical.

Maybe when our emotions have gone through the tunnel , when pain is our beginning which leads us to a beautiful new chapter eventually (oh the patience of time needed!), this sort of logic does get reasoned out.

Then I say, “Bravo! To the many of you.”

Where do you fall in this survey?

_____Suffering is the consequences of people’s own actions.

_____Suffering is the consequences of the way society is structured.

_____Suffering is a part of God’s plan.

_____Suffering is Satan’s fault.

_____Suffering makes you doubt God’s power and/or God’s love.

_____You never or rarely get angry at God when suffering happens.

_____God chooses to not stop the suffering because it is a part of a larger plan.

_____When you hear about terrible things happening in the world, you choose gratitude.

_____When you hear about terrible things happening in the world, you feel sad for those who are suffering.

_____When you hear about terrible things happening in the world, you believe those people deserved it.

I’m going to guess that you checked more than one and you did not check all. I’m also going to guess that you had to think a bit before you checked the ones you checked. I appreciate your deeper thinking.

I’m hoping that maybe in your deeper thinking that you are growing to see a larger story view of God.

When your heart has been smashed, the choice more often taken is to make your world smaller. Because the world has hurt you so much. Because God was distant and allowed it to happen–and you start believing that there is no way ever that God is trustworthy.

I know.

This pain is a beginning or this pain is a door to distrusting God.

I know also that this pain does end. Emotions are tunnels. Science has discovered this.

I have learned that it is the people who really trust God who can vent their anger at him. There are times I don’t understand why the smashed heart thing happened and I don’t understand where God is in the midst of it all. I trust God so much I just tell him. All of it. As I continue to make the brave decision to the next brave decision to the next brave decision.

At some point the logic returns and I can see the larger story.

My brave story is the decisions I have made before the logic returns. This is what I write about. This is what I teach.

Bravo to you for your logical times! Bravo to you for the brave decisions you are making in the midst of your smashed heart time!

p.s. Do you love this neuroscience brain study stuff as much as I do? Especially how our brains reveal God? Find and listen to this podcast: NeuroFaith, S1E4: For the Love of God with Dr. Julie Exline. It’s more of our anger and love of God. Great conversation.


New Bible Study:  Trust Issues with God With Video

Life is unfair. When the unfair thing happens, we look for a reason, a solution, a purpose, justice. These are all things we expect from God. When God doesn’t deliver when we expect or need him to, there is a gap in our understanding of who God is. This Bible study is to help you fill in that gap with trust over suspicion by exploring the truths of the Bible, both individually and in a group setting.

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