The Barna Research Group was requested to conduct a national scientific poll in which they were to ask, "If you could ask God any one question and you knew He would give you an answer, what would you ask?" The number one question was: Why is there suffering in the world?"

     This is not just an academic or even a theological question. It is a question that boils up from their innermost being because of pain they have felt or pain that people they know have experienced.. Lives are in upheaval because of divorce and broken homes. Some of us have known the bitter grief of losing one we deeply love to the grim reaper we call Death. Sad hearts beat in the breasts of parents who raised their children with hopes of great things only to see their children renounce them, their God and all that is good.

     Over the past 20th century we can see much good. There were incredible strides in health, education, medicine, surgery, social welfare, manufacturing, employment, science, world commerce and general standard of living. Even the tyranny of communism caved in to democracy and freedom.

     During that same century we saw times of savage cruelty never equaled in the history of mankind:

  • The two bloodiest wars ever fought.
    The pogroms of Russia and purges by China
    The death camps of Adolph Hitler
  • The ethnic cleansing of Bosnia and Kosovo,  poverty, homelessness and starvation on massive scale
  • When the scourges of AIDS, drugs, drunkenness, and broken homes are factored in, it is small wonder that the number one question people would like to ask God is "Why is there suffering in the world?"

  • God Is Not The Creator Of Evil And Suffering

    After God had finished the creation of the heavens and the earth we read, "And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good…" Genesis 1:31. So we ask, "If God didn't bring all the evil and suffering into the world, who did?

    God gave angels a choice.

         First, the scriptures reveal that evil was brought into the world by an eminent spirit being of the cherubim class who hovered above the very throne of God. (See Ezekiel 28:14) This cherubim willfully decided to rebel against God and rise to the status of being equal with God. "For you have said in your heart; 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High'." Isaiah 14:13, 14

         After gaining the allegiance of a great host of the angels of God, this spirit being launched his subtle assault on man, the highest of God's creatures on earth. To man, God had entrusted the ruler-ship over all other earthly creatures. The first woman was deceived into disobeying God and the man willfully chose to disobey God. (We presume his motivation was that he loved his wife more than he loved God). The scepter of universal ruler-ship fell from the hands of man and was seized by this spiritual being we have come to know best by the names of Satan and Devil.

         Rebellion against God by angels and man is what brought evil and suffering into a creation that was "good" up until that point. The primary source where it began was in the heart of Satan.

    "If God knew all this was going to happen why did He create man in the first place". this is possibly the toughest question of all., therefore it is with great care that I answer.

    God gives man a choice.

         There was certainly something in the heart of God that desired to fully and freely express His love to His creature, man…and for man to freely and fully express his love back to God in return. "…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving kindness  I have drawn you." Jeremiah 31:3. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. To put it in plain English (but imperfect theology) God considered a free will loving relationship with man such a great treasure He was willing to accept the negative consequences. There is a sense in which every parent makes this same decision. We know beforehand that there is a real possibility that each child we bring into the world may endure pain, suffering, and hardships. They may even reject us and walk away from us. Yet, we go ahead and bring them into the world because we believe there is also the very real possibility that we can have a mutual free will loving relationship and there is something within us that greatly desires this.

    Choices have consequences.

    The Consequence of Rebellion Against God is Evil and Suffering

         As a result of the rebellion against God by a host of angels in heaven and by man on earth, two kinds of evil have entered into and become part of the world system…moral evil and natural evil.

         Moral evil finds its motivations in the continuing temptation of Satan and his fallen angels. There are also motivations in a fleshly nature that is in rebellion against God. Moral evil is committed when a choice is made to live contrary to what God has revealed is good and right. The sad truth is that all humanity chooses to do this to some degree every day.

          "God  looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.  Everyone of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, no, not one." Psalm 53:2,3. The result is that we bring hurt to ourselves and others by moral evil. It has been estimated that 95% of the suffering in the world is the result of sin by ourselves and others. For example, we look at a drought, famine, and consequent malnutrition, disease, and earth in certain areas of the world. We ask, "How can God allow this?" All the while it is a proven fact that at any given time enough food is produced on the planet to nourish every man, woman, and child with 3000 calories a day. The problem lies in our own selfishness, callousness, and irresponsibility. The blame lies on the moral evil of man.

         Natural evil has to do with such things as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, airborne plagues, etc. God said that as a result of man's sin the earth would be cursed and bring forth thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:17, 18). One author explained it this way, "When we human beings told God to shove off He partially honored our request. Nature began to revolt. The earth was cursed. Genetic breakdown and disease began. Pain became part of the human experience." The Apostle, Paul revealed, "For the creation was subjected to futility…For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now." Romans 8:20a, 22. Seismographs around the world register the groans and pains of creation every day. This natural evil often brings pain and suffering to man.

    The Bible Tells Us That Suffering Comes To All

         Job certainly experienced great suffering. He remarked, "For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward." Job 5:7. He also noted, "Man, who is born of woman, is of few days and full of trouble." Job 14:1.

    No human being glides through life without troubles and turmoil. Most of us feel like we’re the only one having such a tough time. We’re like the person who came up with the old spiritual, "Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen." Chances are whoever came up with that song did not know the troubles others had seen.

    Suffering Will Always Have An Element of Mystery

         There are some things that God does not reveal completely to man and suffering is one of them. Long ago Moses wrote, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever…" Deuteronomy 29:29. In virtually any heartache, trial or disaster, we will probably not be able to understand fully why it happened. However, there are some things we can know about suffering you might find helpful.

    God Can Bring Good FROM Suffering for Unbelievers

         God often works through pain to bring people to repentance. Many of us are familiar with the story of Joni Erickson Tada. At 17 years of age she was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident. For over 30 years she has spent most of her time living in a wheel chair. God worked in her heart and drew her to trust Christ as her Savior. She has testified "I would rather be in this wheelchair knowing God than on my feet without Him."

         A woman who had lived a life on the wild side contracted cancer and was informed it was terminal. In her pain she reached out to Christ Who was delighted to mercifully embrace her. Her remaining day gave evidence of a beautiful relationship with God. She testified, "If it took cancer for me to meet Jesus Christ, I say 'Thank God for cancer'".

    God Can Works Through Pain To Shape His Children

         God uses bad things in the life of a believer so that they will be "conformed to the image of His Son…" Romans 8:28, 29). Job testified about the purifying work that took place in his life as a result of suffering and pain. "But He knows the way I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10.

         Sometimes God works through the pain of discipline to keep His children on the right path. "…but He (God) (chastens us)  for our own profit , that we may be partakers of His holiness.  ....afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness." Hebrews 12:10, 11. When God sees His children taking a wrong path in life He disciplines them to bring them back to the right path.

         When Christians go through a time of suffering and pain God will never fail to minister comfort to them. They soon realize that they have been equipped to minister comfort to others who go through similar sufferings. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we are comforted by God."  2nd Corinthians 1:3,4.

         The day is coming when evil will be judged and suffering for God's people will forever cease. In the bright and eternal new world we read, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:4 The sufferings of this life will fade from our mind in the glory of what God has prepared for us.

    Let us learn to turn to God in times of suffering and pain. We will find comfort, peace, and courage. A 15 year old girl named Dora has written a poem to help us do this. When Dora was eight years old her missionary father and two other missionaries were kidnapped by guerillas from Columbia. They haven't been heard from since. After growing up for seven years without her father most of us would feel Dora had every right to be bitter, but Dora made a wise choice. Listen to her poem:

    There once was a man a man I once knew.
    Who told me stories every night and laughed at my jokes and held me tight
    He told me "Don't quit. Always fight the good fight."
    He said, "love the Lord with all your heart. Serve Him with all your might."
    He begged me, "Do right."
    There once was a man, a man I once knew who taught me how to tie my shoe.
    And he smiled gently at every picture I drew.
    He told me, "When you start something, don't stop until the job is through."
    And he said, "I love you."
    There once was a man, a man I once knew.
    I saw him in my dream and it made me scream.
    I called out, "Daddy!" but he told me nothing. He had nothing to say.
    For what can you say when you're so far --so very far--away.
    Daddy? I said. Then a voice echoed inside my head as I laid quiet and still on my bed
    Again the voice, "Your daddy made a choice, a choice to serve Me with all of his might
    To not give up, to fight the good fight.
    He's doing a job for Me and it's not yet through. Just remember, I love you."
    There now is a Man, a Man I now know
    He lived and He died to save men from their sins. He made it possible for us to be born again.
    I know, because my daddy told me so.
    And even though he's no longer here, my God will always be near
    Fill in the gaps and show me which way to go.
    I miss my dad so much, but God has a plan. So for now I just going to wait
    And watch the work of His hand.
    There once was a man, a man I once knew.
    He's now just a memory, slowly fading away
    "Dead or alive?" you ask, "I don't know," I say.
    So I beg you. Please pray. Pray that every night
    my daddy knows I Whisper, "Daddy, I love you."
    There now is a Man, a Man I now know.
    Every day --every day--He becomes more real to me, every day I grow.
    Every day I pray that my love for Him will show.

    Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
    All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted


      Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.