Be not utterly crushed in soul by grief, whether disease lies heavily upon you, or any other hardship befalls, but nobly confront toils with your understanding, even in the midst of your struggles rendering thanks to God; since His thoughts are wiser than men’s, and such as it is not easy nor possible for men to find out. Pity those who are in distress, and ask for men the help that comes from God; for God will grant grace to His friend when he asks, and will provide succour for those in distress, wishing to make His power known to men, in the hope that, when they have come to full knowledge, they may return to God, and may enjoy eternal blessedness when the Son of God shall appear and restore good things to His own.
—Clement of Alexandria, “To the Newly Baptized”
While some may think that theodicy is a particularly modern problem, I am inclined to disagree. While such a problem might be uniquely ubiquitous in modern consciousness as compared to earlier historical places and periods, it does not seem to be a uniquely modern problem so much as a uniquely human one. That theodicy is not a uniquely modern problem one may witness from Book III of Sextus Empiricus’ Outlines. The god of the philosophers presents an ancient and irresolvable dilemma between the attributes of divine goodness, power and will.
But for proof that this is an anciently human matter, one may take several biblical examples: Jacob, the Psalmist, Job, and, perhaps preeminently placed among the Gospel accounts, that of the father of Mark 9 whose son has been in his debilitated condition all his life and who cries out, “I believe, help Thou my unbelief”–it wasn’t, I do not think, that the father doubted God could heal his son, but whether he would. It is easier, it seems to me, to believe in God’s power than to trust in his goodness.