The Australian Medical Association has predicted at least a 25% rise in the number of suicides in Australia over the next five years because of COVID-19. While we don’t have figures for Timor-Leste it is true many in our nation are also struggling to understand the suffering they’ve seen, or even experienced, this year.
In her new book, “Where is God in All the Suffering?”, Dr Amy Orr-Ewing offers some answers.
Dr Amy Orr-Ewing (Photo credit: keswickministries.org)
Dr Orr-Ewing is President of OCCA The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and Senior Vice President of RZIM. She believes Christians are often hesitant to ask the “why” question, because they fear that having doubts means lacking Faith. She writes about pain from a philosophical and personal perspective, revealing how God, through Christ, offers a unique hope in the realities of hardship.
“What I wanted to do was really to show how the Bible actually says it’s ok to ask why, and all of us, as human beings, ask why. And then to ask, does our way of looking at the world account for why we ask why?”
Dr Orr-Ewing says the Bible does describe a world in which good people who love God face suffering. But she believes we can get a better understanding of “the why question” by looking at it through the lens of love, which according to the Bible, is at the core of truth and reality.
“Suffering feels so painful, and so wrong, because of our love for another person,” she said, “or because of our instinctive sense that we ought to be loved by a God, and our feeling that, if we’re going through all this awful stuff, maybe we’re not.”
Back at the start of Genesis, we saw God create a perfect world. Then he created humans and gave them free will. “We used that capacity to choose to disobey God. And then we see this cascade of consequences of that exercise of moral choice by Adam and Eve. And that’s how suffering and pain entered the world, not because God made it so, but because we’ve used our capacity to love and to choose for ill.”
And as Dr Orr-Ewing points out, Adam and Eve’s choices didn’t just affect them. “Our choices impact other people. And our choices impact the very fabric of the universe, impact the thorns and thistles that then come, the suffering that results from living in the physical world that we live in, whether that be forest fires, or viruses.”
We live in a world in which love is possible, but pain is also real. The fall described in Genesis explains things even tragic global events like Coronavirus. But it’s important to remember that God hasn’t abandoned us in our suffering. “The God of love, who made this world, also chooses to experience suffering on our behalf, with us, and for us, in the person of Jesus.”
In her conversation with 20Twenty’s Neil Johnson, Dr Orr-Ewing also discussed how other religions, and even atheism, approach suffering. She discussed whether anger has a place in the Church, and spoke about how her book has been informed by her own personal experiences of pain and grief.
Her book, “Where is God in All the Suffering?”, is available now.