This is a question that people have been asking since the beginning. Why does God allow evil and suffering? While I believe no one can fully understand or know God’s reasons, the scriptures give a lot of insight into the purpose of evil and suffering in the world. As I studied and went through some key passages, a few thoughts came to mind. My intention for this post is not to offend or belittle the grief or pain in anyone’s life, but to provide what I believe are reasonable explanations for the imperfection of our human lives. I hope this brings clarity and understanding to some of you, or challenges you to think outside the box. To anyone who has suffered loss or who is going through a tough time, you have my deepest sympathies and I hope you can find healing.
1. God is not the creator of evil and suffering, but allows the potential for it.
“God saw all He made and that it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Moral and natural evil came from our abuse of that free will, to go against God since the very beginning; therefore “we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22) But we can’t blame Adam and Eve because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) People do evil things (moral) and nature is in revolt (natural) as it longs for redemption and for things to be set right. Disorder and chaos stem from that.
2. Death and illness remind us that this life is temporary and refocuses us on our role on earth before we go to the eternal realm.
We are in a stage of preparation. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) God created us as physical and spiritual beings – hardships make us uncomfortable in our life here. Heaven will be free of all suffering and that is what we wait for. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4)
Notice how many people with wealth and comfort do not consider death (ex. some Hollywood celebrities), but those who live in war torn or impoverished countries do. Danger, sickness and death awaken us to our need for God and those with faith and hope can find comfort that this life is not all there is. “No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Consider the author C.S. Lewis (creator of The Chronicles of Narnia series): He is considered to be one of the most faith-filled Christians, yet he lost his wife to a harsh battle with cancer. We get to choose whether in suffering we turn to God for comfort, or if we turn away from Him in blame. Also consider Jesus and his friend Lazarus as told in John 11. When Jesus found out Lazarus died and saw the grief of his friends, he wept. God grieves with us in our suffering. He may allow it but He has a bigger purpose than what we can see. But, we have hope because He has a plan to relieve us of it and this is unfolding day by day, until the final day when he will banish all evil (natural and moral) from existence.
3. God is our protector and comforter and His plan is to reunite us with Himself.
Over and over the Bible shows how God has rescued His people – His aim is not to rescue us from the tragedies of this life but to perfect our minds and hearts for the life to come. “In this world you will have suffering, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He also gives us what we need to be comforted through struggle: His promises, family, friends, nurses, comfort, perspective, hope, etc.
4. We do not have the eyes or mind of God.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8) Almost everything in this life is foggy and confusing when we try to line it up with God’s perfect knowledge – it’s unfathomable. There are many mysteries and questions, but God gives the wisdom we need, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;” (Proverbs 2:6) One day we will know everything, just not right now. “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)
5. The unknowns of life are meant to draw us to God for wisdom (see point 4) and to teach us how to have more faith.
“Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
If humanity believed that if they did good things they would be instantly rewarded or have an easy life, the temptation to do this out of a selfish, impure heart would be much greater. Doing good for the main goal of receiving blessings is not genuine. God knows our hearts and He knows how we think.
Some would say Christianity is an excuse to escape the harshness of life. Well, we have the same question to ask about Atheists: it could equally be argued that they are finding excuses to escape the harshness of judgment, through their denial of the Creator. Only God has all wisdom, and He loves those who, although have questions and challenge the things they hear, still choose to seek, love and trust Him.
“Now we see things imperfectly — like puzzling reflections in a mirror — but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)