When Goodness Doesn’t Make Sense

When Goodness Doesn’t Make Sense

If ultimate authority is given to our senses, then doubts about God’s goodness will abound. However, if our confidence in God’s goodness depends primarily on His own special self-revelation in Scripture, then the here and now finds its context within the framework of the cross and the triumphant return of Christ. Counselors act as wise guides when they lead their counselees to greater awareness of their location in the history of redemption. By this awareness, counselors and counselees direct their life responses as praise for God’s everlasting goodness and His steadfast love—even when it doesn’t make it to our experiential senses.

If you live long enough, you will suffer. If you counsel long enough, you will hear some stories of unimaginable suffering. Our awareness of the fallenness of the order in which we live should, in theory, prevent our shock when listening to our counselee’s pains. Often, that is not the case. Some stories are just jaw-dropping.

Some circumstances remind us of the dreadful days narrated at the end of the book of Judges. “There was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). The atrocities multiplied as the evil of men grew more and more evident, to the point that even reading a narrative like that of the Levite and concubine makes us cringe (see Judg. 19).

But then, we find ourselves cringing once again in the counseling chair. We hear stories about child sexual abuse, spiritual authoritarianism, spousal serial betrayals, and so many other evils that are hard to believe. And yet, as counselors, we are just “reading” the story. In front of us sits a brother or sister who is experiencing those hardships, and each blow of pain is a challenge to their faith: “Where is your good God?”

When goodness doesn’t make sense (or, to our senses), the biblical counselor is responsible for reminding the afflicted counselee of the rest of the story. To be biblical in our counseling, we must help the counselee contextualize his human experience, no matter how challenging they are, within frames of redemptive history. This contextualization entails at least three scenes: 1) the counselee’s present suffering, 2) Christ’s redemptive suffering, and 3) the promised end of suffering with the return of the King.

First Scene—Sensed Evil

The problem of evil hurts the most at the experiential level. Yes, theodicy involves various logical challenges for academics to discuss. The difficulty of those theoretical challenges does not compare, however, to what is experienced by those going through seasons of intense pain and suffering. For the afflicted, circumstances seem to shout moment after moment in accusation, “Where is your God?” (Ps. 42:3, 10).

The wise counselor will not use that truth from Romans 8:28 glibly or too quickly. Yes, we do believe that God is working all things for those who love Him.

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