Summary: Suffering is an all too common reality in our world. God permits suffering, obviously, but is He responsible for it?
CATM Sermon - “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” September 12, 2004
Sometimes it’s too easy to find illustrations to a sermon. Sometimes as a preacher you search and struggle to find stories from the community and stories from other places that help to make what
you’re trying to say clearer.
But sometimes, it’s too easy. Today we’re looking at the question, “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” And we don’t need to look hard at all to see stories of suffering. In the past few years many youth have been shot and killed in our community. That has brought terrible suffering to families. We have friends who suffer with illness, many of us have known people who are suffering or were suffering from AIDS.
Breslen. A community in Russia, full of people just like ourselves, close to a state wanting
independence from Russia. A school full of children on their first day back to classes after a long
summer. Excitement, anticipation, reunions with old friends. A new year ahead.
And then, the terrorists, the captive-takers. The children and their parents all of the sudden become hostages to a desperate and depraved gang of militants and fanatics. Negotiations happen. A bomb drops. All hell breaks loose. Moments later, 335 Dead. Half of them children. A community destroyed. A people in torment. The worst nightmare of a parent coming true for a community of parents. Could there be a worse case of suffering anywhere in the world?
Why did this happen? Why does suffering closer to home happen? Did it have to happen? What led to it? Where was God when this nightmare was being planned and the bombs and guns were being stashed beneath floorboards as the school was being constructed in the summer? Where was God? Why did He let that happen? Was it His will? If it was His will, doesn’t that say something pretty scarey about a God who would want this kind of nightmare to take place? What
kind of God wills that suffering happen, if indeed He does will such a thing?
To put it really bluntly: There is great suffering in this world. A loving God with the power to stop it and who does not stop it has to answer for this.
Where does Suffering Come From?
First of all, I think it’s important to state the obvious. Suffering is real. There are some ways of
thinking that would deny this, that would say that suffering occurs in our minds only. And we need only to look to the cross of Christ, the reality of His suffering for you and for me. Suffering was so real that our Lord Himself came to live in it, experience the full depth of it, conquer it, and redeem it. His suffering was real. So it ours.
We need to say that God’s Word makes it super clear that there is a lot of suffering in this world and that it is not an illusion. Way back in Exodus 3:7-8 “The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians...”
Suffering came into the world because of man’s fall
The world God created was perfect and the life God created for humanity was perfect. Part of that perfection, I would suggest, is that God did not create people to be robots. Instead, He gave us wills to use so we’d make choices ourselves and so that we would truly live free. God is free, and He made us in His image likewise to be free.
But history makes it painfully clear that we have chosen to use our freedom in ways that bring pain to others. We have chosen to exercise our freedom to live selfishly...so nations have warred against other nations, always, always with innocent civilians taking the worst hits as kings duked it out for more land or more wealth or power. So death, pain, grief, loneliness, and all other types of suffering were not part of God’s original world (Genesis 1:31; 3:17-19; 5:29; Romans 5:12,14,18; 8:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Revelation 21:3-4).
And then there’s Adam. The first man. And Eve, the first Better Half, the first woman. They chose to use their freedom in order to sin, to assert themselves over God. The Bible states that this is when suffering entered into the world.
Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this
way death came to all men, because all sinned-
Rom 5:14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who