Internet Ministry in South Africa

4) HOW CAN A LOVING GOD ALLOW EVIL AND SUFFERING?

  • Is God fair to let these  kind of things happen?
  • How could God exist in a world where this kind of thing happens?
  • If God allows suffering how can they trust Him?
  • If God is love why doesn't He do something about the world's problems?

The Bible teaches four crucial principles regarding evil and suffering:

Principal 1: Originally God created a perfect world.

Gen1:31  God saw all that He had created and it was good. 
God did not create man and the world possessing evil.

God intended for man to live an unending life of joyful fellowship in harmony with God and his creation.   [Paul Little in his book: Know Why You Believe]

Principal 2: Where did evil come from?

Evil originated with Satan.
Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezek 28:12-19   Satan was originally a beautiful creation of God, but he rebelled & exalted himself above God.

He contradicted God's command and deceived Eve, assuring her that her disobedience would not result in death, but make her like God.

Satan finds great pleasure in ruining God's creation and causing misery and suffering.  Satan accounts for some of the disease and suffering in the world today. [Paul Little]

James 1:13-15 God himself never tempts anyone.

Principal 3: By misusing his own freedom of choice, man is responsible for evil and suffering in the world.

God created man with the ability to obey or disobey Him.

Gen 2:16,17 ‑ Man was given responsibility to keep God's commands.

God shows man respect  and love by giving him the freedom to think and make his own decisions.  (Otherwise we would be reduced to a mere mechanical puppet).  Because of this freedom of choice, there existed a possibility for sin and evil, so the responsibility lies not in God's interference with man's free choice, but in the human consent to willfully choose good or evil.  This is the choice Eve had when the serpent approached her.

Gen 3:16‑19 shows the severe consequences that resulted from man's decision to disobey God.
Pain, toil and death - both physical and spiritual - were introduced into the world from the moment of mankind's fall. (See vs 6‑15 also,

Rom 5:12, 3:23 and Mark 7:20‑23).

Rom 5:12, Rom 3:23  Because of man's one act of disobedience sin spread to all men.

Mark 7:20-23   Jesus explained that man's heart is corrupted by sin and that he is responsible for the evil deeds committed in the world.

Man has continued to rebel against God.  The fall of Adam and of man lies in the exercise of man's free choice in the direction of evil.  This "fall of man" is the basic reason for evil and suffering in the world;  therefore, man, not God, must assume responsibility.

Man's wrong doing is the source of an incredible amount of misery and strife in broken lives today.  The deceiving, selfish intentions and actions which characterize today's society, all reap a bitter harvest of suffering. [Paul Little].

Principal 4: This principle gives man the  only means of victory over sin, evil and suffering:

Despite man's rebellion, God has responded with love and dealt with man's rebellion and the hurts that it has caused.  God gave man His Son to conquer sin, evil and suffering.

1 John 4:9,10 This is how God showed his love.

Heb 2:17,18   Because He himself suffered when He was tempted.

We see from these verses that Jesus understands our trials because He faced them as a human being.

Heb 4:14‑16  Jesus is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses - on the contrary He was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin.

Christ triumphed over these problems in several ways:
Christ was perfectly obedient to God to the point of death paying the price of man=s sins. (Phil 2:8).
He willingly bore man's sins and provided His righteousness for him in exchange for his disobedience (I Peter 2:24).

God has done the most dramatic, costly and effective thing possible by leaving His heavenly position to become man, to die willingly so that all creation could once again be restored to perfection in Him.

God, in Christ, became a partaker in man's suffering, not protecting Himself from experiencing pain.  God understands suffering and He feels man's pain.  Jesus is described as the ultimate sufferer for all mankind and a sympathizer of his weaknesses.  (Isaiah 53:3,  Hebrew 4:15).

The power of sin and evil can be broken by entering into a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.  He alone can change people's lives by changing their desires.   Instead of wanting to do evil, they will want to do good.  Christ lives to transform broken, sinful souls into those that will reflect His love and goodness.

He restricts evil and can even use it to bring positive results in a Christian's life: 
Romans 8:28   ...God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

I Peter 5:10   And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

Philippians 2:13 For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

According to His Word, the goodness of God and the existence of suffering in the world are not necessarily contradictory.  He can correlate the two and make them constructive.  Therefore, a Christian has a different perspective on suffering.  In His love, He constantly strives to 'perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish' believers, so there are times they may suffer in order for Him to work for His good pleasure.

There are countless Biblical accounts relating to how God uses evil and suffering for His glory and for the believer's good.  For example, in the Old Testament, Joseph underwent many trials with his brothers selling him into slavery in Egypt, as well as suffering slanderous accusations against his character and enduring unjust imprisonment.  However, God used this suffering to test his faith (Psalm 105:19), to establish him as a government leader, and to save many people including his own brothers from starvation.

Modern day examples also testify to God's faithfulness to use suffering to produce positive results in lives.
Recently at a conference at Mount Herman in Northern California (USA), a group of students were sitting around a campfire, sharing what Christ meant to them and how thankful they were for various things in the world and nature.  As they sat around the campfire in the midst of pine-studded hills surrounding the campsite, they became aware of a blind girl attending the  conference who had been listening attentively to all their comments.  Finally, she spoke, "I'm thankful tonight that I was born blind, because the first thing that I will ever see is Jesus."  This girl's sufferings were producing patience, endurance (James 1:2-4) and eternal perspective for her life (II Corinthians 4:17,18).

Another modern example shows how God uses suffering in a Christian's life to be a testimony to lead others to salvation (II Corinthians 7:10).
The wife of a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member, Larry Benton, was assaulted one afternoon in her home by an ex-convict.  Shortly after the crime, the man was found and arrested.  Larry and Beverly Benton felt impressed by God to express Christ's love to this man.  The Bentons' visited him, corresponded with him and befriended the prisoner.  After a period of two years, the prisoner committed his life to Jesus Christ.  God used this trial to call the Benton's to a full-time ministry to prisoners.  In 1974 they became the founders of the Prison Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, a ministry designated to communicate Christ's love to prisoners.

The third way God has dealt lovingly with man despite his rebellion is by promising that evil will not rule forever.

One day man will live in a new earth.  In Revelations 21:1-4 God promises that He will dwell among men on earth, wipe away all tears, death, and pain.

When Jesus was here on earth He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry and calmed the potential natural disasters (like storms).  This was a preview of what He can and will do when He will put an end to all evil and suffering.

God will remove all evil and suffering according to His perfect timing.  He postpones judgment at the present time out of love, because He is willing for none to perish (II Peter 3:9).  That's why He desires all men to heed His call now so He may return to establish the new earth.