Why Doesn't God Stop Suffering?
“How can you believe in an all-loving and all-powerful God with all of the suffering present in our world? If there is a God, then why doesn’t He stop suffering? “Sue asked me. Sue was a friend and she considered herself an agnostic and an intellectual. And I think she felt that I was simple minded to believe in a mighty and holy God when all around bad things are happening to good people.
Sue said she wanted to believe in God, but He did not meet her expectations. Life is unfair, she insisted, and if God is there, He should come and make things right. Sue’s first child had died. She had prayed that her baby would live, but God had not answered her prayer she said. Wasn’t God supposed to take care of her since she had tried to be a good person? Where was God when her baby died?
I mentioned that the Bible told many stories of good people who had bad things happen to them. There was Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers. And David who hid for years in caves and dens to keep King Saul and his soldiers from killing him. Paul who was arrested, beaten and abused and finally put to death by the Romans. And of course Jesus who was nailed to a cross and died for our sins. No, God’s followers aren’t promised a trouble or pain free life, I told her.
Sue insisted that if God allowed bad things to happen to good people then He wasn’t an all-powerful God. An all-powerful God could stop the bad things from happening since He runs the earth, she reasoned. I answered that God has given us humans “dominion” over this earth. Scripture says He placed humans in charge of the earth and made us responsible for managing it. (Genesis 1:27-28) God promises to be with us to help. He gives us a mind and soul and a conscience. He also gives us His Word, and the Holy Spirit to guide us and Jesus Christ to redeem us. But one of God’s main ways of ruling the earth is through people. We are to be co-workers with God. But since God gave us humans’ dominion over our world to make it better, we also have the power to make it worse and screw it up. I told Sue that we humans have the ability to choose good or evil and when we choose evil we can cause terrible pain and problems for others.
Sue felt that if God were loving and merciful that He could have created us so that we could not ever choose evil. She insisted that she couldn’t believe in a God that knew ahead of time that we would choose evil and still give us the freedom to do that. I told Sue that for some reason God chose to allow us humans to be free. He did not make us into robots. He created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and He has freedom to choose and so do we. What would our lives be like if God made it impossible for us to ever do anything wrong? The ability to choose is an essential part of our human lives. In the very beginning God places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and commands them not to eat of the tree of good and evil. (Genesis 2:15-17) That tree in the garden represents the freedom that God gives us to choose His way or another way.
And you know the rest of the story. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and stray from God’s way. And we all, like our first parents, have inherited their sin nature that seduces us away from God’s righteous way. Adam and Eve listened to the serpent’s lies. And they rationalized sin and ate the forbidden fruit of the tree and their paradise (the wonderful Garden of Eden) was lost. And we, like our first parents, also hear the serpent calling and we also must decide whether we will follow God’s way or that other way. And when we rationalize sin and choose that other way, some part of God’s paradise is lost in our lives too. And then we blame it on God.
And we blame all of the suffering caused by the bad things that humans do on God. Scripture tells us that God gave our first parents the freedom to choose sin. And when they did they fell from grace and needed a Savior (Jesus Christ) to rescue them. Scripture also says that through our first parents, Adam and Eve, we inherit a sin nature. (Romans 5:12) And all of us humans sin. (Romans 3:23) And sin causes sickness and suffering and death. And we need rescuing by our Savior too. (John 3:16)
Because of sin the Bible never promises that we will not suffer, but it does promise that suffering will not have the last word. And in due time Christ will completely conquer sin and death. God promises that “the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
Scripture tells us that God is all-holy and all-merciful and all-good and all-loving. And He is also all-powerful and all-knowing. Some people judge God’s actions like they would judge another human’s actions. But God is not a human and His ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours that it is foolish to try to judge Him. Job found that out when he wanted God to answer his arguments. (The book of Job)
God calls us to trust Him and not lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5) He urges us to give all our burdens to Him. (1 Peter 5:7) God invites us to ask “anything” in His Name and He will give it to us. Anything! If we trust Him and if we ask in His will. (The salvation of a person is always in His will - 2 Peter 3:9) He tells us that our prayers in His Name are powerful. (James 5:16) Even though we may not understand how God can answer our prayers, He is able to do all that He promises. He works in mysterious ways and His ways are past finding out. We serve a mighty, victorious God who will answer all our prayers even though some of our prayers may be answered on the other side.
On the other side, our hardships and sufferings and our sicknesses and sorrows will all be gone! Because Jesus rose from the dead, good will triumph over evil and light will defeat the forces of darkness and life will conquer death! When the Bible speaks about the return of Christ and the end of our lives it says: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death is your sting?” “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-58)
We have a short sighted view when we blame God for not stopping evil and suffering right this minute here on earth. God promises through Jesus Christ that there will be no more sin or sickness or crying or sorrow on the other side. God gives us a hope, a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) that He will make all things new and there will be no sin in this new world. Everything will be good. And for those who love Him, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” (Malachi 4:2)
Pastor Adam Hamilton writes that every year he ends his Easter sermon at his church, the Church of the Resurrection, the same way. He asks his congregation: “Do you really believe the story about resurrection? Do you really believe that Easter means the worst thing is never the last thing? Do you really believe that ultimately good will triumph over evil and God’s plans will ultimately prevail?” And the Pastor Hamilton answers: “I not only believe it, I am counting on it.” Let’s all of us count on it too.
Many of the ideas in this blog were taken from Reverend Adam Hamilton’s booklet, Why? Making Sense of God’s Will.