The longer I have been a Christian the more it seems to me that the most profound question I know how to frame is: how come the existence of suffering and evil in the world make God more glorious rather than less glorious? I want to do a series of posts on this theme to see how many answers I can give to the question.
Its not an academic question. Not only does it go right to the heart of whether God: (a) exists; (b) is loving; and (c) is all-powerful, but it also one of the most common reasons I hear for people refusing to think about Christianity. It is easy to assume that suffering simply proves that the Bible's portrayal of God as both loving and powerful is untrue. You don't have to argue it, you don't have to provide evidence for it. Suffering is evidence enough on its own. And on top of that there is the issue of where is God when everything in life crumbles and life is terribly painful.
But there is a deeper question still for Christians who believe that he is all-powerful and all-loving. We believe that everything God does he does for the sake of his glory, in order that he will be famous and will be worshipped. We also believe that God is never wrong footed, never taken by surprise, never caught out or forced to concede anything he doesn't want to. But if these beliefs are both true, that means that suffering is, somehow, something that God allows (or that he causes, or that he doesn't prevent) for the sake of his glory.
That's the heart of my question. How can God be involved in suffering in such a way that it is for the sake of his glory rather than a diminishing of his glory? How is it that he is more glorious that evil and suffering be? And beyond that, how is that a help to us when we confront evil or when we suffer?