IF GOD IS JUST AND LOVING, WHY DOES

HE ALLOW SUFFERING IN THIS WORLD?




I t seems a fair question and many people have asked it, but what is the answer?




My Advice? ... Be Unafraid to Take a Wholly Biblical Approach!

A two-year old child might scream loudly when he or she needs to be changed, bathed, or put to bed, but that child's parents have a purpose in doing those things which are for that child's own good and happiness – even though the child will not understand for the present. The difference between the understanding of a two year old child and that child's parents is very large, yet as nothing compared to our knowledge and the all-encompassing knowledge of God! Sometimes we too must undergo trials which will ultimately be beneficial...

Sadly many attempts to answer this question appear to 'fall over themselves' in an attitude of not wishing to offend and of upholding 'political correctness'. Now, while none of us should ever wish to offend, we must fearlessly proclaim the message of the Bible if we profess to be followers of the Christ!

While some very sincere people ask this question, quite a lot of sceptics, religion ridiculists and atheists also ask the question, and these people often have no genuine wish to increase their understanding but simply wish to slander and humiliate the message of the Gospel wherever they can. Therefore, we should seek to understand the motivation of the questioner before we even set out to explain biblical teaching; if we don't, we might go into great depth only to have it rebelliously and hatefully thrown back in our face (Matthew 7:6)! Don't forget that Jesus Himself often refused to directly answer questions when He perceived that the questioner was not acting out of real humility, but simply wished to cause dissent and strife, and wanted to accuse.

My preferred tactic is to quickly establish where the questioner is coming from. Frequently I will ask the enquirer, 'Do you believe in God?' The response to this question will often tell me whether there is any point in going into the theology of this matter. If the response is something like, 'Sure I do, but I cannot understand why there is so much suffering in the world' , there is a good chance that this is a sincere question and one which merits a considered response; but if the response is, 'No I do not believe that God exists' I will often say, 'Since you do not believe in the existence of God and presumably believe evolution's claim that we all just evolved from slime and that life is a meaningless accident, why are you questioning the fact that there is suffering in life?' In this way, one can immediately put pressure on the atheist to justify his/her suggestion that life should be fair! After all, if a person supports mindless and random evolution, why does that person nevertheless expect fairness and justice? It makes no sense!

The question answerer is immediately confronted with a huge problem here: We cannot properly explain why the world is the way it is and why good people suffer without considering what happened in the Garden of Eden, and yet, people have been taught that the Garden of Eden account, and the Adam and Eve it concerned, is just a fable - something one might relate to children, but certainly nothing based on historical fact! Knowing this difficulty some rather more liberal-minded Christians attempt to 'go around the houses' in giving an answer (or even worse, in sometimes saying that the question has no answer!), which will sound appealing to modern ears but which makes no mention of the decisions made in the very first garden.

So we need to understand that just as a person going into a cinema towards the end of a movie will be totally perplexed by the action without receiving an explanation of what happened at the beginning, this also applies to those who wonder at the state of the modern world yet have never given any serious thought to religion, philosophy or indeed, God!

The Holy Bible quite clearly states that the first human couple, Adam and Eve, rejected the possibility of permanently walking with God in close unity, preferring the appeal to human vanity offered by Satan (Genesis 3:4-5). Satan implied that God was untrustworthy and encouraged the first couple to develop a purely human knowledge - apart from God - through experimentation; the very first such experiment was in tasting a fruit which the Lord God had expressly forbidden (Genesis 3:4-6). The Lord had said that the tasting of that fruit would lead to death (Genesis 2:16-17), and He meant it, yet He had had not said when that death would occur; but because Adam and his wife did not die immediately, they (in the new attitude of mistrust and suspicion fostered by Satan) questioned what the Lord had told them. Thus, we see the birth of human God-denying intellectual arrogance which would now only have 'faith' in human 'wisdom'!

With the resultant Fall of Mankind (Genesis 3:23-24), not only the nature of men and women changed, but the physical world itself became unstable and potentially dangerous, with the possibility of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and various weather disasters, including droughts and floods (Romans 8:19-22). Crops would also now become much harder to grow (Genesis 3:17-19) - animals too lost their essentially peaceful nature and the world of animals and insects would now proceed 'red in tooth and claw' with Satan's predatory spirit! Pain also now became an inseparable part of human existence and men would tend to dominate and bully their wives (Genesis 3:16). It's as if the Lord said, 'You want to do things your own way? Fine, but you must accept the whole package and you must also try to control the natural world without my protective hand!'

So we need to understand that the world which we see all around us today – though still occasionally containing much beauty – falls well short of what God intended it to be. Human beings are now born with a 'fallen nature' (Psalm 51:5) (the doctrines of Original Sin and Human Depravity), this does not mean that people are as evil as they can possibly be – thankfully, in most cases, far from it – but that they can only comprehend carnal, human, non-divine knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:6-16) – indeed, just that form of knowledge which Adam and Eve accepted for, and on behalf of, their millions of descendants!

But – it might be asked - are not some people genuinely “religious”? Sure they are, but unless God Himself decides to open human eyes their religion will be a mixture of truth and error with no possibility of them entering into a genuine relationship with the Living God! God has ordained that the way back into a right relationship with Him is possible on an individual basis (not to society as a whole at the present time) through the blood of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Yet even then there will continue to be suffering and injustice in this life, because Christians must continue to live in this present evil world for the remainder of this age (Psalm 34:19; John 15:20; Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Yet we must face the fact that the present human condition of falleness does indeed mean that there is much evil in the world, for all are now very prone to evil but some people (obviously too many examples to include here) and some societies (Nazi Germany and Pol Pot's Cambodia, for example) succomb very greatly to it (Jeremiah 17:9; 2 Timothy 3:13).

Nevertheless, God remains merciful, loving and concerned towards His Creation and refuses to totally leave or abandon human beings to their own devices (Isaiah 61:1-3). So He still sets out to show us – even through the imperfect societies which Adam and Eve chose for their children – that His righteous ways are best!

Job was a righteous man but he too suffered: but when Job suffered greatly, his attitude was,

'Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him...' (Job 13:15)

When even his sons and daughters were taken from him, Job's attitude was,

'...The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised' (Job 1:21).

So our response should always be to trust God, yes, even in severe trials because somewhere in everything that happens upon this earth God is working out His purpose. Let me illustrate: A two-year old child might scream loudly when he or she needs to be changed, bathed, or put to bed, but that child's parents have a purpose in doing those things which are for that child's own good and happiness – even though the child will not understand for the present. The difference between the understanding of a two year old child and that child's parents is very large, yet as nothing compared to our knowledge and the all-encompassing knowledge of God! God sees the whole of eternity before Him, but we only see only our own tiny little corner of life; as C.S. Lewis once put it, 'We see so little down here!' The Bible also makes it clear that human suffering can actually accomplish spiritual good in those who suffer in various ways, yet who keep their eyes on the Master (Romans 8:18; Hebrews 12:4-11). The Master Potter and Master Sculptor is primarily concerned with developing spiritual character in people – not in helping people go through their lives with trouble-free existences!

But some have said: Why didn't God just force people to do good and to be kind to each other in this world right now? Why didn't He simply make people not to sin?

Well, first of all because the first couple – on behalf of all of us – rejected God's interventionism in human affairs (Genesis 3:8-10), but also because God cannot deny Himself and His own integrity of godly character! He wanted to give people a choice to do good or evil, He gave people free will, but God wants people to obey Him in a situation in which they could have chosen to do evil - therein lies the intrinsic righteousness which our Creator wants to see in people. A righteusness in which they are exposed to, and are fully aware of the allure of sin but nevertheless willingly choose the paths of righteousness! God wants people to learn the consequences of their own actions – whether good or evil.

God does not want to save unthinking automatons! Meaningful relationships are impossible with unthinking automatons – God wants to save people who have seen what sin and evil can do and become utterly set against it - for eternity! And yet the righteousness which saves such people is truthfully not their own but Christ's (2 Corinthians 13:4-5).

God caused us to live in a real world where we can choose our actions and have some measure of control over our lives. We become exposed to cause and effect; we learn that sin can affect not only ourselves but many others – yes, even little children. We are made in God's image and – since it is the path which our first parents chose for their descendants – He allows us to live in our own little 'three score years and ten' 'godly kingdoms' upon this earth. He could have been 'interventionist' – immediately intervening, for example, if a teen took drugs in order to protect the teen and his or her family, but God would then have played the role of a bad parent who actually encouraged people to do wrong knowing that God was always around to intervene! God could have chosen to intervene for every slipshod builder whose houses collapse, killing and maiming the house dwellers, but again, that would require God to support unworthy scoundrels! No; God uses the principles of cause and effect to teach us all lessons which have a moral foundation. Sometimes the innocent suffer, and yet theologically speaking, none of us are innocent in any case, since we are all partakers of the sinful nature inherited from our parents (Romans 5:12).

But the really good news is that the Bible clearly teaches the Resurrection of the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 42-49; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) followed by the Great Judgment (Romans 14:10-12; Revelation 20:11-13) in which all will receive final justice in the eternal court of heaven! The wicked may seem to go free in this life but eventually every soul will become answerable to God - yes, this includes final justice for those righteous souls – probably in their millions – who have unjustly suffered at the hands of tyrants upon this earth! They died in despair but will be welcomed into God's eternal Kingdom. Also millions of those who died in childhood (before the age of accountability), including countless thousands whose lives were taken while still in the womb! Yet those who reject God will have their choice of eternal exclusion from His presence. There is finally complete and total justice to come for this entire earth despite the erroneous and rebellious decision made in the Garden, because ultimately we all remain God's creation and He will take responsibility for that Creation.

CONCLUSION

To understand the evil in this world we have to understand our origins: where we came from, who we are and the decisions taken in a beautiful garden many thousands of years ago. We have to understand that human beings have free will to do good or evil – yet they will bear the consequences of their behaviour.

It is sheer folly to blame God for the suffering present in a world which has quite plainly rejected Him (Isaiah 59:1-8)! Indeed, the blueprint for a perfect society is contained in the Holy Bible (Matthew 5-7) but few have accepted it.

So God – in His utter mercy – has not left us without explanation or totally without remedy! One of this world's claimed "holy books," is indeed divinely-inspired, that book is the Holy Bible. The Holy Bible contains a full explanation of the human predicament! The remedy is in Jesus Christ our Lord; Yes, all must continue to suffer in this present evil age for the truth is that sinfulness necessarily brings on suffering – not only to the sinner but often to those surrounding the sinner - but this is a path which Mankind has chosen for itself; yet a New Heavens and a New Earth is coming in which tears and pain will be a thing of the past (Revelation 21:1-8). Christ – and Christ alone (Acts 4:10-12) – is the key to unlock the door into that glorious future. If you are reading these words with a strong degree of understanding, Almighty God is almost certainly offering YOU entrance into His Eternal Kingdom: Whither Goest Thou?

Robin A. Brace, 2005.


It might also prove helpful to read:

ARE CERTAIN PEOPLE DOOMED FROM BIRTH NEVER TO BELIEVE IN GOD?

ARE OUR SPIRITUAL CHOICES IN THIS LIFE MEANINGFUL...OR AN ILLUSION?




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