Why Does God Allow Suffering and Evil?

Why does God allow evil and suffering in the world? This is an age-old question. Either God is all-powerful but not all-good (and therefore doesn’t stop evil) or He is all-good but unable to stop evil (making Him not all-powerful). The general idea is to blame God for all evil and suffering and pass all responsibility to Him.

No Easy Answers:

Remember that God created Adam and Eve perfect, not evil. But they had the ability to obey or disobey God’s commands. Had they obeyed that one command (Genesis 2:16-17), they never would have had a problem. Since that time, the tendency toward sin has always been with us (Romans 5:12). We must remember that people are responsible for sin, not God.

So, why did God make us so that we could sin? Had this happened, we would no longer be human, but rather machines. Saying, “I love you” in person is so much more meaningful than hearing the same words from a hostage that I told to say it while I hold a gun to their head! We are not robots programmed to say the phrase, we have a choice.

Could God stamp out evil?

A time is coming when He will, because of His never-ending love (Lamentations 3:22). While the devil has his day, God is holding us by His grace and His unfailing love. If God would stamp out evil today, he would do a complete job. Stop war but stay away from us… lies, personal habits, lack of love. Who would still be standing if He were to do this tonight?

What God has done about the evil:

He has done the most drastic thing, the sacrifice of His Son. He was the only way to escape the inevitable judgment of sin and evil. To speculate the origin of evil is endless. No one has a full answer. Some things are classified as secret that only God knows (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Part of our problem is the limited definition of the word good. (See quote on p. 133)… justice dispensed according the severity of the infraction.

Exact-Reward concept:

Would God be good if He dealt with each person exactly according to his deeds? God’s goodness is not only displayed in His justice but in His love, mercy and kindness) Psalm 103:10-11). It is a faulty assumption that happiness is the greatest good, usually fleshed out in comfort. True happiness is not precluded by suffering. Some things can only be accomplished in our character brought about only by suffering (1 Peter 5:10.

Exact-reward is more on the lines of karma. Any attempt to alleviate pain or suffering would be interfering with the just ways of God. That is why Hindus do so little in helping the less fortunate. This idea does give us a clean rationale for suffering; it is all based on previous evil-doing. Christians at times have this same thought, “Why did I deserve this?” That cruel assumption is the argument of the friends of Job.

There are many instances where suffering is not related to one’s behavior; automatic assumption of guilt and needed punishment is not warranted. A man does reap what he sows (Galatians 6:7); the affliction of Miriam with leprosy (Numbers 12:10-11); the life of the baby made from David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:15); Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:10); a man born blind from birth (John 9:1-3); the Galileans more sinful? (Luke 13:1-3). If the punishment is for one’s deeds, there is never any doubt that it is happening due to the justice of God.

Judgment preceded by warning:

God is always warning about the consequences… turn from your wicked ways, why choose death (Ezekiel 33:11); you refused to allow me to gather you like chicks (Matthew 23:37); God is patient that you would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

How could a good God send anyone to hell? The point is that He doesn’t, we choose to send ourselves. Geisler says it this way, this world is the best way to the best of all possible worlds; one where we have free will yet there is no sin. Sometimes we are responsible for a weak building that collapses in a storm. Others die due to drunken driving. Cheating, lying and stealing are characteristic of our society and God cannot be blamed for it.

The presence of the enemy:

There is an enemy ready to pounce like a roaring lion (2 Peter 5:8). In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the enemy did this (Matthew 13:28). James 4:7 reminds us that he can also be resisted.

God feels our suffering:

He is not distant; He not only is aware of our suffering but He feels it (Isaiah 53:3, Hebrews 2:18, 4:15).

The risky gift of free will:

Evil is a necessary part of free will. He could stop evil but in doing so He would destroy us. The point of Christianity is to produce a willing consent to choose good rather than evil.

Much of evil can be traced back to the actions and evil choices of man and women: the bank robber kills, the embezzler ruins the company, refusing to heed a storm warning.

Some suffering is allowed by God as judgment; but the purpose is to restore or form one’s character.

God has a cruel enemy in Satan. He was defeated on the cross but is still around to wreak havoc on God’s people.

God is the greater sufferer when He sacrificed His only Son for our penalty.

Greatest test of faith:

Perhaps it is to believe that God is good in the midst of all this suffering. God never asks us to understand, but only to have faith and trust Him as a child does his earthly father. Peace comes when we realize that we do not have the full picture (Romans 8:28, Habakkuk 3:17-18).