WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?
One of the first impressions one gets when traveling in India is of the deep poverty and misery of the people. Even most of the Christians live a day-to-day existence. Sickness, pain and death are parts of their daily lives. If one doesn’t understand where God fits into this, they easily question God’s goodness. So, lets talk about why God allows suffering.
If God is greater than Satan, He must also be greater than evil. If so, why doesn’t He destroy all evil and suffering in the world? Why doesn’t He bring justice and healing everywhere? How can a loving God allow terrible things to happen to people? Why does He permit drought, famine, war, crime and persecution? Can He be a good, loving God and allow evil to happen?
WHY DOESN’T GOD DESTROY SUFFERING? Suffering is not because God is not good, for He is good (Psalm 34:8). Also, suffering is not because God is unable to stop it, for He is all-powerful (Isaiah 40:25-26). He proved His goodness by leaving heaven to come to earth and go to the cross to pay for the sins of every one of us. Then He came back to life. We cannot doubt His goodness -or His power. Still, He allows suffering. Why?
God did not create evil. God cannot be the source of something totally opposite to all He is and stands for. A good and holy God would not be able to create evil. If so, He would have evil as part of Himself and, thus, not be good and holy. God did not create evil, but when He created free will, He allowed for the possibility of evil. Free will, both for angels and human beings, assumes there are two opposites to freely choose between. These are good and evil. God created humans in His own image, capable of having and sustaining a personal relationship with Him. But to really be in His image, they have to be capable of freely loving Him and following His will without being forced. But creatures who are free to love God must also be free to hate or ignore Him. And when people act in ways outside the will of God, great evil and suffering is the ultimate result.
Evil and sin exist because first some angels, then human beings chose disobedience over obedience to God (James 1:13-15). If God never allowed free will, or if He destroyed it now, we would be robots and unable to choose to love and follow God. There would be no human freedom. And if God destroyed evil, He would have to destroy us as well. He created us because He loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us, not destroy us. So, His solution was to come to earth to pay for our sins. That way we can still have a free will to choose to follow Him, but our sin would be paid for when we don’t follow Him.
God did not create evil, but He allowed it so we could have a free will. He uses evil for His ultimate good. He temporarily tolerates certain short-range evil, in order to achieve long range good that we cannot understand. God never allows pain without a purpose. For example, my parents took me to a doctor when I was young, even though I wasn’t sick. The doctor would give me vaccinations against dangerous diseases. I couldn’t imagine why they would let a strange man hold me down and stick a painful needle in my arm. But I knew they loved me and trusted they knew something I didn’t know. That’s how we must respond to painful things that happen to us which we don’t understand. God has reasons we can’t comprehend.
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING? For unbelievers, suffering is a consequence of sin in the universe (Genesis 3:17-18) and also a consequence of their own actions and rejection of salvation. God allows it so they will see their need of Him and come to Him for salvation.
For us who are believers, God allows suffering for a different purpose. Sometimes we deserve the negative things that happen to us because we break the rules of government or nature. We make choices with negative consequences when we don’t take care of our health or our finances. God allows difficulties to arise so we turn back to Him (Hebrews 12:4-12; Revelation 3:19; Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:12).
What about suffering that happens to God’s people who are living in obedience to Him? Why does that happen? It’s not punishment (Romans 8:1). God allows it for a reason. With Job His reason was to show Satan and his demons, angels, and all mankind that Job chose to remain faithful despite what happened (Job 1-2). Hosea went through a terrible marriage in order to show the people God’s unconditional love and what God went through loving them. Suffering also teaches obedience, as was true of Jesus who needed to suffer to learn obedience (Hebrews 5:8; 2:10). It does bring us closer to God and cause us to lean more on Him, as Paul learned through his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). God uses suffering to bring us closer to Christ (1 Peter 1:7-8; Isaiah 49:2) and learn to trust Him more (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Watching God bring us through trials and tribulations helps us see God’s power at work (John 13:16; 16:33; 1 Peter 1:13). As we trust Him more, His Spirit is free to work within us to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 4:8-11) and help us grow in Him (John 15:1-8). In addition, we are better able to help others who suffer after we have been through it ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Job 2:7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
Do you struggle with the problem of why God allows suffering? If not, why not?
If so, how does this article help you better understand it?
What would you tell someone who asks how you can love a God who allows suffering?
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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