Summary: Why would God, who is good and full of love, allow suffering?
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
(with help from author Lee Strobel)
When a doctor prescribes medication, it is supposed to be for our good and to help us with whatever may be ailing us. But have you ever noticed all the side effects that come with the prescriptions? You take a pain reliever for a head ache which will help ease the pain, but the side effects may be nausea, dizziness, weakness, night sweats, etc…Makes you wonder if it’s worth it. Life should come with a list of side effects as well. I think 5 minutes before the delivery of a baby, every mother should be given a slip of paper that says something to the effect of: this baby will bring you great joy and pleasure but the side effects may be illness, abuse, betrayal, sorrow, heartache, disappointments, injuries and death. Actually, life did come with a warning. Jesus said in John 16:33 that in this life, there will be trouble. But the question that millions of people want an answer to is why? Why does there have to pain and suffering?
That question was first asked thousands of years ago by Job, and it’s repeated through out the Psalms. Why God? Why is this happening? Throughout the wars, the Holocaust, the famines of Africa, the emergence of AIDS, 9/11, the tsunami, the hurricanes, and this week, a ship sank on the Red Sea where at least 1000 lives were lost. Why God? Why would a God who is good and full of love allow these things to happen?
In a recent survey, the question was asked: if you could ask God any one question, what would it be? The number one response was “why is there suffering?”
All of us have had personal times in our own lives of disappointment and tragedy and we too have wanted an answer to that question. I wish I could stand before you today and give you a complete and accurate answer but I can’t. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says that in this life, we only see dimly, and from our perspective, we don’t understand life or God at times. And it’s probably because we’re not supposed to.
Yet there are some things that we CAN understand and I’d like to discuss with you some possibilities for why God allows suffering in our lives.
Have you ever been driving on a foggy, rainy night and couldn’t see anything in front of you? Then all of a sudden, you notice tail lights on a vehicle in front of you and you begin to follow those tail lights to guide you in the right direction.
The same is true for our understanding of life-there are some things that are foggy and unclear and we feel lost and disoriented. But there are some key biblical truths that provide enough light for us to find the right direction. And as long as we have those truths to shine in our life, we may not clearly understand everything, but we know we’ll eventually get to the right destination where “we’ll understand it better bye and bye.”
So when we’re lost in the darkness and can‘t understand why, what are those biblical truths that will help to illuminate our paths?
1) God is not the Creator of evil and suffering-
The question has been asked- “Why didn’t God create a world where suffering and evil did not exist?” The answer is simple: He did. Genesis 1:31 “ God saw all that He had made and it was very good.”
So if God is not the author of pain and suffering, where did it come from? God created humankind with a free will, which is necessary if we are to be able to express our love to God and to one another. We are all created, not like puppets on a string, but with a free will. We have the choice that we can love God or we can reject Him. We choose to be kind and generous or selfish. We choose to be good or bad. God gave us that ability with a free will. If you pull a string on a Barbie doll, she may respond by saying “I love you”. It’s not because she means it or has any choice to love you, she has been programmed to say those words. Real love always involves a choice.
And because humans have made a choice to reject God and His way of life, evil exists. There are two kinds of evil: moral and natural. Moral evil exists when we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive and the results are pain and suffering. Some have estimated that at least 90% of the world’s suffering is due to our choices of selfishness and sin. For example, people look at famines and wonder why God allows starvation. But there is enough food in the world to feed everyone at least 3000 calories a day! It’s our own self centeredness and lack of caring that causes this suffering. Then there is natural evil. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc…The pain and suffering from these is astronomical. Why would a God of love allow this to happen? Genesis 3:18 says it’s because of sin and selfishness that the world got corrupted and “thorns and thistles” entered the world. The earth and all of nature was cursed when sin entered our world. Mosquitoes, sticker bushes, horse flies, weeds in your yard, tornadoes and hurricanes are a result of natural evil. Romans 8:22 says “ creation groans with pain like the pain of child birth.” Because of sin, not only do we as people suffer in pain, but all of creation is in pain as well. All of us, including God’s creation, long for the day when we will be redeemed with no more pain or suffering.