Have you ever heard the argument that if God is all-powerful, He must not be all good?
The reasoning goes that if God were all-powerful, He would surely stop the horrors of this life…everything from natural disasters to famine, and from cancer to human trafficking. But because these things exist, some assert He is either powerless to stop them or fully capable, but chooses not to. One renders Him impotent, and the other, indifferent. In this box of human logic, God is forced into an “either/or” dichotomy. He can either be all-powerful or good, but not both. But as with most things relating to the infinite, supernatural, almighty God, perhaps He does not fit so neatly into human paradigms.
The name of God that was introduced this week is El Shaddai, translated “Almighty God.” The term first appears in scripture in Genesis 17:1 when the Lord makes a covenant with Abraham, vowing to make a 99-year-old childless man the father of many nations. Only an all-powerful God could make such a promise.
God is also called good. Nahum 1:7 explains, “The LORD is good. A refuge in times of trouble.” Can God be both all-powerful and all-good? How can He allow and even author some of the terrible things that happen to us and around us… and still be a good God? We have all wrestled with this on some level.
The book of Job is a depiction of this universal question. Job loses his children, his wealth, and his health when God permits Satan to attack him. In the dialogue between Job, his friends, and the Lord, we find verse 5:18 describing God’s hand in suffering, “For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.” This verse appears to reference affliction for which God is directly responsible yet it does not depict Him as One who is not also “good.”
He bruises and He wounds. But He also binds and makes whole.
There is purpose and resolution to the pain God inflicts. And there is healing. Our suffering will not last forever for He will bind up our wounds. I can feel the compassion in this verse.
God is not wringing His hands, wishing He could prevent evil in the world. He has His reasons for allowing it, not the least of which is our willingness to turn to Him in times of trouble. As Hosea 6:1 reads, “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us”. Also Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I am He and there is no god beside me. It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal”.
I don’t like to read the words “It is I who put to death,” and I don’t like to think of God wounding anyone. But Paul’s thorn and Jacob’s hip force me to acknowledge God’s sovereign hand in suffering. This is not easy. I wonder if the disciples felt similarly when Jesus explained that they must “eat His flesh and drink His blood” in order to live forever. This was more than a little uncomfortable for the disciples, and they responded, “this is a hard teaching; who can understand it?” In response, many disciples fell away and Jesus asked Peter, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:60-71).
Just as many disciples fell away in the wake of this teaching, people today reject God in disillusionment with suffering. The idea that an Almighty God allows suffering and sometimes authors it, is a hard teaching. Pastor Dan noted that when God doesn’t behave as we think He should, we are quick to doubt His sovereignty and His goodness. But from our limited, humanperspective, how can we begin to know how El Shaddai should behave? We must simply trust that even in the face of suffering and evil, He is all-powerful and all good. It may be difficult for us to reconcile, but a supernatural God can be both.
Though this is a hard teaching and these are hard times, like Peter, we trust that Jesus has the words of eternal life. Where else shall we go?
~ Melissa Gibbs has been a member of LIFE Fellowship for over 10 years, is the mother to four boys and widow of the late JD Gibbs.