Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?
Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering in the World?
It’s a big question, huh? I’ve asked it myself. Christians and non-believers alike have struggled with the same question since the beginning of time.
Here’s another version of it: Why do bad things happen to good people?
For atheists, it becomes the fuel in their bold attempts to disprove God and the infallibility of the Bible. In essence, they claim no God of love would want His people to suffer this way.
For many Christians, the “Why” question starts coming back during challenging times in their lives. The sharp arrows of spiritual warfare continue to haunt their thoughts even though they know that God loves them. Suffering is all very real and it hurts.
Will we ever fully know the answer to these questions? Yes. There is a day coming in all of our lives when all of our questions will be answered. It’s the belief I hold onto during tough times.
Praise God for that!
But, I know there are others whom I care about very much who continue to struggle in their spiritual life. I once worked with a lady whose father died a painful death. She told me she could never worship a God who took her father away from her like that. That was a long time ago.
I wish I had known then what I know now. Instead of just listening to her as her friend, I could have offered a lot more. I wish I had the information in this article like I do now. Our peace and perspective during difficult times comes from God.
Suffering and Sadness are a Part of Life in a Fallen World
We will all experience difficulties and sadness in this life. There’s no loophole or “free pass” card. And, it’s not God’s fault. We know sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience over 2000 years ago. In fact, it’s through God’s grace that we’re even here now.
I’d rather live a perfect and happy life and not ever have to worry again about another hardship. There have been many and, at the time, these challenges hurt very badly. Until I accepted Jesus Christ into my life, I didn’t deal with the bad things very well.
I still react sadly or shell-shocked, but it’s different now. I have an eternal perspective. It took a lot of years before I finally got it. In retrospect, I wouldn’t change anything about the path it took me to get here – a better understanding of how God wants us to respond.
Do I still grieve, cry, ask questions, or vent in anger? Yes. I’m human. But I also know that when the dust clears, God has a purpose in everything for good. Wait – did I say everything?
A Flower Among the Thorns
I lost my Dad to Alzheimers years ago. It was painful to see the father I looked up to pass away, just a shell of the man he used to be. It was a cruel, undignified way to die and those memories remain in the back of my mind. I miss him terribly.
Why, God? Why did he have to die like that?
My best friend in the whole world was killed in a tragic car accident. He left behind a wife and young children. He had his whole life ahead of him. A mutual friend called and gave me the news and I was a crying mess when I heard.
Why, God? Why him?
The accident that my husband’s family and I were in years ago took the life of our beautiful niece. (you can read about it on the My Testimony page on this website). Susanna was only nine years old. There are some callous people out there who say “that accident happened years ago, get over it.” But, anyone with any empathy at all would know that, when something tragic like that happens to you, your life is forever changed.
There are many more devastation-worthy events that I won’t discuss here, personal and difficult, but these are just a few of the spiritual markers in my life that brought me on my knees to Christ.
I wanted to write this for those of you who may be going through a trial in your own life. I empathize with you. I’ve been there.
My prayer is that you won’t give up on God and that you’ll actively seek and feel His love and kindness in the midst of your difficulty. I don’t mean praying empty prayers. I mean pouring your heart out to God in your own words, seeking comfort from supportive friends who are believers, and turning your life over to Christ in the midst of your pain.
Answers That May Guide You Along the Way
I turned to Pastor Tommy Nelson for some insight to help you if you are currently struggling. Pastor Nelson is senior pastor at Denton Bible Church and graciously offered to answer some common questions that people have. His full bio is at the end.
Why Are We Being Blamed for Past Events?
Pastor Nelson – looking at the Book of Genesis, some people want to know why we’re being blamed for the fall of Mankind, an event that happened over 2000 years ago?
Actually, we’re just a continuation of the fall of man. Nothing has changed. Man is still bent toward evil. It is wonderful that God does not deal with us as we deserve, but He continually causes the sun to shine on good and evil alike.
Sin is a Part of Our Nature
Psalm 14:3 is telling:
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good, not even one.
No matter how nice we “think” we are, it’s clear throughout the Bible that we all have a sinful nature. The church is a body of sinners. Church goers shouldn’t claim to be otherwise. We’re all in need of repentance.
Sometimes an Unanswered Prayer is the Best Answer
How would you respond to someone who says they prayed to God about their situation and nothing changed for the better, for example, a threatened job loss becomes a reality or a marriage breaks up?
The Psalms are full of the experiences of men who prayed and then continued to wait because the answers did not come. Paul prayed to go to Rome (Romans 1), but God prevented him. Why? Because God had a greater purpose (Rom 15). That purpose was to use Paul in mission work. Later, he got to Rome. Prayer does not eliminate us from trusting and waiting. Joseph prayed to get out of prison. God let him remain two more years because Joseph’s purpose was to be the Prime Minister of Egypt and Bread of Life to the world.
Jesus prayed that, if possible, for the cup of suffering to pass from Him. It could not. He had to be Savior. He submitted to an unanswered prayer. There are numbers of times in the Bible that God answers “no” and it’s always for a greater reason. The greatest things in my life have come from unanswered prayer.
People Often Ask “Where is God When I Need Him?”
Pastor Nelson says “God is the same place He was when His Son died. He is there, nearby. He just has higher plans. Apparently, there are worse things than death.”
How can that be? Please read on…
“There are worse things than death.”
A short answer that speaks VOLUMES.
There are circumstances involved that we simply don’t know. Perhaps, our loved one who died may have been spared from something much worse later on in his or her life. (I think of my niece). Does that make us immediately feel better? Maybe it does, maybe not, but it can help with perspective.
God allows us to suffer during our lifetime. He feels our pain. And, if your loved one is in Heaven and you’re a believer, you WILL see him or her again.
For Christians, our hope is in Jesus Christ and His promise of eternal life. Our lives here are only temporary and, while those gut-wrenching trials we go through are painful and seem so unfair, one day we’ll know the why’s and the answers we so desperately seek.
Isaiah 55 tells us, in essence, that God’s ways and thoughts are different than ours. We can’t know the exact purpose of our suffering, only God knows right now. But, some day, we too will know.
What, you may ask, could be worse than death?
Here it is: Turning your back on God. Eternal separation from God – there is nothing worse, even the death of a loved one.
Can that truth help us through the next trial? We’re human and we suffer. A tragedy, such as losing a loved one, is sad and overwhelming. But, with time, it all comes back to a realization that we need to let God be God.
Blaming God is Not the Answer
Pastor Nelson – for some people who feel abandoned by God, their anger eventually turns to bitterness. I’ve heard people I care about say that God has forsaken them. Why is their bitterness so destructive?
Because bitterness takes the position of judging God. Bitterness assumes a posture of standing above God and judging Him as flawed. Such an impious posture will never fellowship with God. The only way to be rid of bitterness is to rest in His sovereignty during those things we cannot control.
A perfect life doesn’t exist, but there are ways to cope with the down periods. We will all continue to face challenges in our lifetime. Stress, anxiety, and depression – all are joy killers in a person’s life. Sometimes the reason we suffer is for righteous discipline
It’s hard to hear, but it’s true. In some instances, our suffering is for discipline.
How do you know the reason for your own suffering? You could drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out.
Pastor Nelson, why does God discipline us?
If God loves us and wants the best for us, why does He discipline us?
Because He does love us. “Whom I love I discipline” (Rev. 3:21) and “Whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Heb. 12.) The way you ruin a child is to never discipline i.e. never change him for the better. Just let him be the way he wants.
God loves us more than we love ourselves. He wants us to be great and pure, not just happy. His scourgings are purposeful.
How should we pray through our pain?
Prayer is important.
We should pray for:
- A sense of God’s presence
- His quick intervention
- The revelation of His wise purposes
- That His grace will take you through it.
Many Thanks to Pastor Tom Nelson
Tommy Nelson is Sr. Pastor of Denton Bible Church in North Texas. He’s a featured speaker at Christian conferences nationwide, including as Speaker Emeritus for the Song of Solomon Conference. In addition to his many speaking engagements, Nelson has also authored several popular books and DVDs. He illustrates how to apply God’s Word in our everyday lives. Pastor Nelson grew up in Waco, Texas in a family of four boys. An enthusiastic sports fan, he played baseball in high school and, at the University of North Texas, assumed the role of quarterback for the football team. He has degrees from UNT and a Master of Arts degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Tommy and his wife, Teresa, have two grown children, Benjamin and John Clark, who have blessed their mom and dad with six grandchildren.
Photo used with permission from Denton Bible Church. Denton, Texas.