Have you asked yourself this question lately? In light of current events, it might be something that has crossed your mind. I know I think about it sometimes. Over the Christmas holidays, I read the book Unbroken and then saw the movie this past week. I left wondering how God could allow so much pain and suffering in one man’s life. It didn’t seem fair. And yet, I am a Christian and my fundamental belief about God is that He is good and He loves us. I also believe God is fair and just and compassionate. But sometimes, I have a hard time reconciling those beliefs with all the evil that I see in the world. I am not only referring to the recent killings in Paris, but also to the innocent journalists that were beheaded a few months ago. To see those men on their knees knowing that they were about to be killed in such a gruesome way was sickening. The evil that can commit such heinous acts has nothing to do with the God of the Bible, the God I believe in. Of that much, I am sure. But why does God allow it?
As if he knew my thoughts, my pastor, Rick Baldwin, of Friendswood Community Church, tackled this question today. And although I have heard this explained before, it was good to be reminded again. I also heard some things from a different perspective and I wanted to share what I learned.
Let me begin by saying my pastor was a successful engineer before giving up his career to become a pastor twenty years ago. I say this because it’s in his nature to explain things logically and systematically. As an accountant, I can appreciate his approach.
Before I begin to delve into the question at hand, I have to set the stage. Last week, Pastor Rick preached on whether or not man has free will to choose God or whether our destiny is predetermined before we’re born. Although the Bible seems to say both of these things and contradict itself, Rick believes that the majority of the Bible overwhelmingly suggests that we have free will. And while this is another topic worthy of debate, I agree with Rick that we have free will or free choice to choose God or reject Him. So for the purposes of the question at hand, I am going with this presumption.
And with that in mind, when God gave us free will, He made sin an option (Genesis Chapter 3). God is neither the author nor the source of sin (James 1:13-15). But sin is the source of all suffering because sin brought death into the world and damaged the physical world that we live in (Genesis 3:17-18 and Romans 8:19-22). But why did God give us free will if He knew sin would enter into the world and would lead to evil and death and suffering?
Surprisingly, the answer is love. He did it so that we could give and receive love. Love can only be experienced in the context of free will. It must be freely chosen to even exist. Love cannot be dictated, it must be a choice. Otherwise, we would all be like robots programmed to do as God wanted. You see, love is the currency of God’s kingdom. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus answered to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). That is the core of what God is about. God loves us too much to force us to do what He wants. Rather, He wants us to freely choose to love Him and He wants us to love each other. Without free will, we could not choose to love God. And with our free will, we can choose to love God. But sadly, many choose to reject God and follow their own sinful desires (Romans 8:5-8).
God’s decision to give us free will and allow us to experience love cost Him dearly. He had to watch His Son, Jesus, die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16). And He has to continue to watch all the evil that goes on in the world and He is grieved by it. So why doesn’t He stop it? Because He is patient with us and wants to give everyone a chance to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9).
But the day of the Lord will come. Evil and suffering and death will not prevail; God will one day put an end to it all. He promises to those who believe in His Son that they will live with Him forever (John 3:16, 36). There will be a new heaven and a new earth. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:1-5, 27). The old things of this world will pass away, and we will live with Him forever in peace. Praise God!
But until that day comes, we will continue to endure pain, suffering and death on this earth. However, God helps us in our suffering in the following ways.
First, He uses our pain to bring us to salvation (see 2 Corinthians 7:10). Most of us accepted Christ out of brokenness and pain. When we cannot fix things ourselves, we tend to look up and He is there to meet us where we are.
Second, God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those with the comfort we ourselves have received (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Have you heard the expression “God never wastes a hurt”? It’s true. He uses our suffering to teach us how to help others when they are going through the same situation we have experienced.
Third, God sometimes intervenes and stops the suffering (see Daniel, Chapter 3). We should always pray and ask Him to stop our suffering, but we must be like the men in Daniel and decide that no matter what the outcome, we will worship no other God.
And finally, God redeems us. In Romans 8:28, He tells us that He works all things for our good! Even when we mess up and make bad choices, God will turn all things so that they work together for our good. Isn’t that good news?
One of my favorite scriptures that I memorized many years ago puts all of this into perspective:
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Well, I hope this was as beneficial to you as it was for me. As the Apostle Paul so eloquently wrote…may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
Written by: Connie Morgenroth
January 11, 2015