"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
(Romans 3:10-12 ESV)
There’s a common way that many of us struggle with our faith. There is a difficulty that many believers encounter. And this struggle comes in to play as we see much of the suffering in our world.
We often witness friends and acquaintances suffer in terrible ways. Perhaps it’s an illness, or a series of setbacks in their career. Maybe it’s family problems. Maybe it’s an unexpected death. And we tell ourselves that it’s just not fair. We tell ourselves that they don’t deserve this.
We think the same way when it comes to suffering in our own life. As we experience hardships, we tell ourselves that we don’t deserve this. We tell ourselves that it’s not just of God to allow a good person like us to suffer.
The same mindset also strikes us when it comes to the gospel. We understand that we’re saved through faith in Jesus. But, then, we begin to wonder: What about those who have never heard the gospel? What about those who haven’t had the opportunity to believe?
We once again tell ourselves that this isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that they should be condemned when they live in culture in which the gospel is absent. And we ask why God would condemn all of these good people to hell.
One of the first things we must remember, and it’s also one of the primary things we remember during the season of Lent, is that we are not good people. This is made very clear to us in the above passage. And these truths, stated by Paul, are actually drawn out of the Old Testament.
In other words, this was not a new discovery that Paul was relating to the people. It was not a new revelation. It had been one of the foundational truths, given by God to man, for centuries.
For this reason, whenever I begin to think that someone doesn’t deserve the pain they’re enduring, whenever I begin to think that their suffering is unjust, and whenever I begin to think of someone as a good person (even if that person is myself), I’m drawn back to this truth: No one is good. No one is righteous. And we do, in fact, deserve all of the suffering we face in life. In fact, we deserve so much more.
If God gave us what we deserved, none of us would be here today. If he gave us what we deserved, we’d all be in hell at this very moment. We’d all be facing an eternity of torment, separated from God and his blessings. And there would be no possibility of forgiveness or salvation.
It’s only by God’s grace that I’m alive today. It’s only by his grace that I possess the things that I need. It’s only by his grace that I’ve received the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
For this reason, instead of accusing God for every last bit of suffering we experience, or for that experienced by others, we should praise him for his love and goodness. We should thank him for the unmerited favor he has lavished upon us. And we should seek to make the good news known to others that they too might escape the suffering and the punishment they so clearly deserve.