The problem of pain and suffering is without doubt the most troubling paradox for Christians. How could a loving, maximally powerful and caring God allow his children to go through extreme and seemly meaningless pain and suffering? In times of suffering many Christians do, and correctly so I may add, find it difficult to imagine that God cares about their struggles. God appears to be as cold as ice itself and far from them as east is to the west. At those moments they rightly identify with Ivan Karamazov’s cry: “It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand, it’s the world created by Him I don’t and cannot accept”, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s fictional novel, The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky 2007, 257)
Early Christians underwent various trials and persecutions. Many paid their faithfulness with their own blood. What was it that made them stand tall and proud through such hard times? What was it that made them triumphantly walk into the valley of death without doubting the sovereignty of their loving God? As I explored their writings, I discovered one of their reasons. Their eschatological hope was what keep them going. It was their hope for the future glory at the second advent of their Lord and God. Their understanding of this future glory brought them hope. They considered all their present suffering not worthy compared to the joy and glory prepared for them (Rom. 8:18).
Christians can answer what Philo, David Hume’s character in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, supposed to be unanswered Epicurus’ questions (Hume 1947:198 D 10.25) with the doctrine of the last things. God is willing and able to prevent evil. Why God permits at the moment pain and suffering, we do not know. What we know is that the time is coming and now it is at hand when God will not only eliminate all instances of pain and suffering but also bring justice and restoration to the victims, and righteous punishment to all the evil-doers. It is the time when God’s kingdom in heaven will completely come on earth and God himself will be with His people.
Christians can guarantee those who are in pain and suffering, those who also trust in the Lordship and reignship of Christ Jesus, that “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”(Rev. 21:4 NIV). They can rest assured in Christ Jesus their hope. They can rest knowing that though we suffer now, all will be made new. All will be made much more glorious than we can now fathom.
As Christians await for that day, they can themselves join in with the author(s) of the Didache’s prayer: “Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou hast prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever” (Did 10.5).