WHY GOD ALLOWS SUFFERING
The Barna Research Group was requested to conduct
a national scientific poll in which they were to ask, "If you
could ask God any one question and you knew He would give you an
answer, what would you ask?" The number one question was:
Why is there suffering in the world?"
This is not just an academic or even a
theological question. It is a question that boils up from their
innermost being because of pain they have felt or pain that people
they know have experienced.. Lives are in upheaval because of
divorce and broken homes. Some of us have known the bitter grief of
losing one we deeply love to the grim reaper we call Death. Sad
hearts beat in the breasts of parents who raised their children with
hopes of great things only to see their children renounce them,
their God and all that is good.
Over the past 20th century we can see
much good. There were incredible strides in health, education,
medicine, surgery, social welfare, manufacturing, employment,
science, world commerce and general standard of living. Even the
tyranny of communism caved in to democracy and freedom.
During that same century we saw times of savage
cruelty never equaled in the history of mankind:
- The two bloodiest wars ever fought.
The pogroms of Russia and purges by China
The death camps of Adolph Hitler
- The ethnic cleansing of Bosnia and Kosovo, poverty, homelessness and starvation on massive scale
When the scourges of AIDS, drugs,
drunkenness, and broken homes are factored in, it is small
wonder that the number one question people would like to ask God
is "Why is there suffering in the world?"
God Is Not The Creator Of Evil And Suffering
After God had finished the creation of the
heavens and the earth we read, "And God saw all that He had made,
and behold, it was very good…" Genesis 1:31. So we ask, "If God
didn't bring all the evil and suffering into the world, who did?
God gave angels a choice.
First, the scriptures reveal that evil was
brought into the world by an eminent spirit being of the cherubim
class who hovered above the very throne of God. (See Ezekiel 28:14)
This cherubim willfully decided to rebel against God and rise to the
status of being equal with God. "For you have said in your
heart; 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the
stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on
the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of
the clouds, I will be like the Most High'." Isaiah 14:13, 14
After gaining the allegiance of a great host of
the angels of God, this spirit being launched his subtle assault on
man, the highest of God's creatures on earth. To man, God had
entrusted the ruler-ship over all other earthly creatures. The first
woman was deceived into disobeying God and the man willfully chose
to disobey God. (We presume his motivation was that he loved his
wife more than he loved God). The scepter of universal ruler-ship
fell from the hands of man and was seized by this spiritual being we
have come to know best by the names of Satan and Devil.
Rebellion against God by angels and man is what
brought evil and suffering into a creation that was "good" up until
that point. The primary source where it began was in the heart of
"If God knew all this was going to happen why did
He create man in the first place".
this is possibly the
toughest question of all., therefore it is with great care that I
God gives man a choice.
There was certainly something in the heart of God
that desired to fully and freely express His love to His creature,
man…and for man to freely and fully express his love back to God in
return. "…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving kindness
I have drawn you." Jeremiah 31:3. "For God
so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John
3:16. To put it in plain English (but imperfect theology) God
considered a free will loving relationship with man such a great
treasure He was willing to accept the negative consequences. There
is a sense in which every parent makes this same decision. We know
beforehand that there is a real possibility that each child we bring
into the world may endure pain, suffering, and hardships. They may
even reject us and walk away from us. Yet, we go ahead and bring
them into the world because we believe there is also the very real
possibility that we can have a mutual free will loving relationship
and there is something within us that greatly desires this.
Choices have consequences.
The Consequence of Rebellion Against God is Evil
As a result of the rebellion against God by a
host of angels in heaven and by man on earth, two kinds of evil have
entered into and become part of the world system…moral evil and
finds its motivations in the
continuing temptation of Satan and his fallen angels. There are also
motivations in a fleshly nature that is in rebellion against God.
Moral evil is committed when a choice is made to live contrary to
what God has revealed is good and right. The sad truth is that all
humanity chooses to do this to some degree every day.
down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any
who understand, who seek God. Everyone of them has turned
aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does
good, no, not one." Psalm 53:2,3.
The result is that we bring hurt to ourselves and others by
moral evil. It has been estimated that 95% of the suffering in the
world is the result of sin by ourselves and others. For example, we
look at a drought, famine, and consequent malnutrition, disease, and
earth in certain areas of the world. We ask, "How can God allow
this?" All the while it is a proven fact that at any given time
enough food is produced on the planet to nourish every man, woman,
and child with 3000 calories a day. The problem lies in our own
selfishness, callousness, and irresponsibility. The blame lies on
the moral evil of man.
has to do with such things as
tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions,
airborne plagues, etc. God said that as a result of man's sin the
earth would be cursed and bring forth thorns and thistles (Genesis
3:17, 18). One author explained it this way, "When we human beings
told God to shove off He partially honored our request. Nature began
to revolt. The earth was cursed. Genetic breakdown and disease
began. Pain became part of the human experience." The Apostle, Paul
revealed, "For the creation was subjected to futility…For we know
that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs
together until now." Romans 8:20a, 22. Seismographs around the
world register the groans and pains of creation every day. This
natural evil often brings pain and suffering to man.
The Bible Tells Us That Suffering Comes To All
Job certainly experienced great suffering. He
remarked, "For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward."
Job 5:7. He also noted, "Man, who is born of woman, is
of few days and full of trouble." Job 14:1.
No human being glides through life without
troubles and turmoil. Most of us feel like we’re the only one having
such a tough time. We’re like the person who came up with the old
spiritual, "Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen." Chances are whoever
came up with that song did not know the troubles others had seen.
Suffering Will Always Have An Element of Mystery
There are some things that God does not reveal
completely to man and suffering is one of them. Long ago Moses
wrote, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those
things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever…"
Deuteronomy 29:29. In virtually any heartache, trial or disaster, we
will probably not be able to understand fully why it
happened. However, there are some things we can know about suffering
you might find helpful.
God Can Bring Good
FROM Suffering for
God often works through pain to bring people to
repentance. Many of us are familiar with the story of Joni Erickson
Tada. At 17 years of age she was paralyzed from the neck down in a
diving accident. For over 30 years she has spent most of her time
living in a wheel chair. God worked in her heart and drew her to
trust Christ as her Savior. She has testified "I would rather be in
this wheelchair knowing God than on my feet without Him."
A woman who had lived a life on the wild side
contracted cancer and was informed it was terminal. In her pain she
reached out to Christ Who was delighted to mercifully embrace her.
Her remaining day gave evidence of a beautiful relationship with
God. She testified, "If it took cancer for me to meet Jesus Christ,
I say 'Thank God for cancer'".
God Can Works Through Pain To Shape His Children
God uses bad things in the life of a believer so
that they will be "conformed to the image of His Son…" Romans
8:28, 29). Job testified about the purifying work that took place in
his life as a result of suffering and pain. "But He knows the way
I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Job
Sometimes God works through the pain of
discipline to keep His children on the right path. "…but He
(God) (chastens us) for our own profit , that we may be
partakers of His holiness. ....afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness."
Hebrews 12:10, 11. When God sees His children taking a wrong path in
life He disciplines them to bring them back to the right path.
When Christians go through a time of suffering
and pain God will never fail to minister comfort to them. They soon
realize that they have been equipped to minister comfort to others
who go through similar sufferings. "Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all
comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation so that we may be
able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort
with which we are comforted by God." 2nd Corinthians
The day is coming when evil will be judged and
suffering for God's people will forever cease. In the bright and
eternal new world we read, "And God will wipe away every
tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor
crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things
have passed away." Revelation 21:4 The sufferings of this life
will fade from our mind in the glory of what God has prepared for
Let us learn to turn to God in times of suffering
and pain. We will find comfort, peace, and courage. A 15 year old
girl named Dora has written a poem to help us do this. When Dora was
eight years old her missionary father and two other missionaries
were kidnapped by guerillas from Columbia. They haven't been heard
from since. After growing up for seven years without her father most
of us would feel Dora had every right to be bitter, but Dora made a
wise choice. Listen to her poem:
There once was a man a man I once
Who told me stories every night and laughed at my
jokes and held me tight
He told me "Don't quit. Always fight the good
He said, "love the Lord with all your heart.
Serve Him with all your might."
He begged me, "Do right."
There once was a man, a man I once knew who
taught me how to tie my shoe.
And he smiled gently at every picture I drew.
He told me, "When you start something, don't stop
until the job is through."
And he said, "I love you."
There once was a man, a man I once knew.
I saw him in my dream and it made me scream.
I called out, "Daddy!" but he told me nothing. He
had nothing to say.
For what can you say when you're so far --so very
Daddy? I said. Then a voice echoed inside my head
as I laid quiet and still on my bed
Again the voice, "Your daddy made a choice, a
choice to serve Me with all of his might
To not give up, to fight the good fight.
He's doing a job for Me and it's not yet through.
Just remember, I love you."
There now is a Man, a Man I now know
He lived and He died to save men from their sins.
He made it possible for us to be born again.
I know, because my daddy told me so.
And even though he's no longer here, my God will
always be near
Fill in the gaps and show me which way to go.
I miss my dad so much, but God has a plan. So for
now I just going to wait
And watch the work of His hand.
There once was a man, a man I once knew.
He's now just a memory, slowly fading away
"Dead or alive?" you ask, "I don't know," I say.
So I beg you. Please pray. Pray that every night
my daddy knows I Whisper, "Daddy, I love you."
There now is a Man, a Man I now know.
Every day --every day--He becomes more real to
me, every day I grow.
Every day I pray that my love
for Him will show.
Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted
Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.