Evil and Suffering … Why?
Why God? Why?
by June Hunt
If honest, we have all said in our hearts, Why? It’s just not fair! God, why would You allow …? The why’s in life are bewildering on this side of heaven and require a true knowledge of and deep faith in the character and the heart of God.
At times life is simply not fair! In fact, most people have muttered, “Why? Why would God allow something so cruel … so evil?” Where was He? Doesn’t He care? Left unanswered or incorrectly answered, these questions often become the basis for denying the existence of God or rejecting the goodness of God or both. We can give thanks that God has given us insight into truth through His Word and His dealings with humanity. This truth not only validates the existence of God, but confirms the goodness of God. Nowhere in Scripture is the fairness of God more poignantly addressed than in the Book of Job. In spite of his severe losses, Job posed a profound question—a question for all of us to consider in times of tragedy.
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In the space of about 5 minutes, Job and his wife had lost all of their immediate family—every one of their sons and daughters—and all of their wealth and their entire livelihood. They went from plenty to poverty, from wealth to want, from happy to heartbroken. How would you respond to the stark realization that you had just lost everything of value to you in this world? Would you view God as fair? Would you consider Him good? Like Job’s wife, you might be tempted to say,
“Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
A. What Is “Evil”?
A mass murderer, a cruel torturer, a child abuser—all are stereotypes of what we know and hate about evil. Some people say, “Well, I may not know how to define evil, but I know it when I see it!” Is this true? Consider the following definitions:
• Evil is the corruption of good …
— the absence of good, when good should exist
“Turn from evil and do good.” (Psalm 37:27)
— the departure from the way life ought to be
“God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
Illustration: When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate fruit from the tree that God said was forbidden to them, they experienced a permanent departure from the way life ought to be on this earth. (Read Genesis chapter 3.)
• Evil is a moral choice of bad over good, arising from badness of character. In Greek, the word kakia, which emanates from “badness in character,” means “wicked, depraved” and “morally reprehensible” and therefore represents …
— a violation of the will of God
“Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:21)
— a perversion of the Word of God
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)
Illustration: “The evil one,” Satan, perverted the Word of God when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.
“The devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, And they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ ” (Matthew 4:5–7)
• Evil is that which causes evil. The Greek word poneros denotes “evil that causes evil,” an evil that causes pain and suffering, as seen when …
— An evil person causes evil.
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Matthew 12:35)
— An evil spirit causes evil that leads to an evil generation.
“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43–45)
Illustration: An evil King Manasseh caused evil to spread throughout the whole of Judah.
“Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols.” (2 Kings 21:11)
Question: “If God made all things, doesn’t that mean He created evil?”
Answer: No. Realize these 2 major points:
— Evil is not a thing, but rather is— a condition resulting from the improper use or perversion of a good thing.
— Evil exists in something else, something it corrupts—corrupted goodness. A good knife can be used by an evil man to commit murder.
— Evil is the absence of good. It is an intruder brought in by human beings. Evil was not created by God. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Evil is not the opposite of good but the absence of good.
— Everything God created was good, but the intentional wrong choices of Adam and Eve resulted in an aberration of the good things God created.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
Question: “Does God cause evil?”
Answer: No. God cannot ever cause evil. God cannot do anything that is contradictory to His character. The Bible clearly teaches that God is good. Since evil is the corruption of good, it is impossible for God to do anything evil.
“You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.… Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” (Psalm 5:4; 3 John 11)
Question: “Why should I believe in a God who allows evil?”
Answer: The often unspoken question behind this question is Does God really care that I am hurting? The answer to both questions can be clearly seen in God’s actions. God cares about your hurts to the extent that He willingly suffered in order both to identify with you and to save you. The beauty of Christ’s crucifixion is that God—on your behalf—voluntarily suffered at the hands of evil people. Although evil and pain are the result of mankind’s choices and not the result of God’s choices, God does not subject His creation to something He is unwilling to endure Himself. When you undergo loss, rejection, illness, or pain, remember that God knows how you feel from His own personal experience … and He hurts with you. When God became a man, He entered fully into fallen humanity and thus fully experienced the suffering of humanity, except that He was without sin.
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10)
B. What Is “Good”?
A sacrificial servant of God, a fearless firefighter, a protective parent—all are stereotypes of what we know and love about goodness. Some people say, “Everyone is born good.” Is this true? Consider the following definitions:
• Good is uncorrupted virtue.
“Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:4)
• Good is a moral choice of right over wrong, arising from righteousness of character. The Greek word kalos means “good” that comes from being intrinsically virtuous in character. This goodness, which is honorable, righteous, and morally pure, is a moral choice of good over bad.
“Anyone, then; who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
• Goodness is that which causes more goodness. Only Jesus, who is the embodiment of goodness, can produce good.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Question: “Doesn’t the existence of evil prove that God is not a good God?”
Answer: The existence of evil does not negate the existence of a good God any more than darkness negates light or death negates life. Some things are better defined by the contrast of their opposites. Since both good and evil clearly exist, a good God must necessarily exist. What else is the source of good? God in His goodness and in His timing will deal with evil and those who promote evil.
“The evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” (Proverbs 24:20)
Question: “If God is a good and compassionate God, why doesn’t He hear my prayers and answer them?”
Answer: God is not deaf—He hears all of your prayers. In fact, because He knows everything, He knows your requests even before you ask. And He answers sometimes with yes, sometimes with no, and sometimes with wait. God the Father even said no to Jesus when He was facing crucifixion and no to the apostle Paul when he was facing a physical malady. The Father’s purpose for Jesus’ death was our salvation. God’s purpose for Paul’s physical ailment was to produce humility in Paul. Realize that He always answers your prayers according to His purposes for you. In the end, the righteous are delivered from all of their troubles.
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:17–19)
C. What Is “Just”?
A fair and impartial judge, an honest and forthright business person, an objective and equitable employer—all are stereotypes of what we know and appreciate about those considered to be just. Some people say, “Our nation is a just nation.” Is this true? Consider the following definitions:
• The English word just is a legal term that means either “being in right standing” or “having right conduct according to human or divine standards.”
• Justice refers to the law, jurisprudence is the science of law, and the “justice system” sets the legal standard.
The Greek word dikaios is the root word for each of these words: “just, justification, right, and righteous.”
Just and right are often used interchangeably throughout the Bible to mean …
— in right standing
“See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
— right conduct
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
• Right standing and right conduct are always measured against a standard.
— When two people secure a marriage license before marrying, they are in right standing within the legal system.
— When a man is convicted of a crime, his wrong conduct is illegal.
Illustration: The chief priests found Jesus guilty of breaking the Jewish religious laws, but Pilate found Him innocent of illegal conduct according to Roman law.
“As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’ ” (John 19:6)
Question: “Why is God partial toward some people?”
Answer: The Bible says God does not show partiality. It may appear from our limited view that God favors certain people over others. However, God loves and cares for us all equally.
“God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11)
D. What Does “Theodicy” Mean?
If it is true that “Life is full of suffering, and then you die,” what is the purpose of living at all? This life, however, is but a fleeting training ground for the life to follow—eternal life that will go on forever. God will use the sufferings in this life for our eternal good if we choose to rely on Him. While this is not the best of all worlds, it is the way to the best of all worlds! Only by giving control of our lives to our Lord and Savior in this life can we get to the next life God has prepared for us.
“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 4:17–18)
• The word theodicy is a theological term used in apologetics (a defense of the faith) to vindicate the goodness, justice, and existence of God in the face of all the evil and injustice in the world. Those who are convinced that God is absolutely just know that His reputation is not at stake and can state with absolute confidence …
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14)
• The Greek word theos means “God,” and the Greek word dike means “justice.” As you increasingly come to know the Lord God, you increasingly have confidence in the character of God.
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
• Theodicy is a logical defense of the goodness of God despite the existence of evil in the world. Because logical reasoning can be effective in presenting truth to those who have not heard the truth, we are told …
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15–16)
E. What Is the Problem of Evil?
The very existence of evil in our world presents a major problem to many people who know the claims about God—that He is morally perfect, all-powerful, and all-knowing. The premise is that evil cannot coexist alongside a good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God because they are mutually exclusive of one another. Therefore, skeptics conclude that the presence of evil in the world negates the presence of a good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God. The problem involves three components and three assumptions:
If God is all-good and all-powerful, why does He allow evil?
• There are 3 components contained in answering this classic question.
#1 God is all-good.
#2 God is all-powerful.
#3 Evil is present in the world.
• The 3 assumptions are …
#1 If God is all-good—He would want to prevent evil.
#2 If God is all-powerful—He could prevent evil.
#3 If God is all-knowing—He could anticipate evil and therefore stop it!
• If any 1 component is missing, then you don’t have a problem.
#1 If God is not all-good, the problem vanishes. God is a “cosmic demon” who causes evil.
#2 If God is not all-powerful, the problem disappears. God is too weak and powerless to stop evil.
#3 If no evil is present in the world, the problem evaporates. Evil (sin and suffering) is mere illusion.
• All 3 components are true, based on the Bible …
#1 God is good … and He gave people free will, which is good.
“The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psalm 92:15)
#2 God is all-powerful … and He can do anything that is logical, but it is illogical for Him to both grant free will and constrain it.
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.” (Isaiah 46:10–11)
#3 Evil and its effects (sin and suffering) are present in the world … because people chose to exert their God-given free will and disobey God.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
F. Why Would a Good, All-Powerful God Allow Suffering?
• God sometimes causes suffering in order to bring about a greater good.
Jesus said about the apostle Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). Later, when Paul was unjustly jailed and had no ability to leave, he was given the opportunity to witness to the guards. As a result, many Roman soldiers came to trust in Christ. Paul explained,
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Philippians 1:12–14)
• God sometimes allows evil and suffering through …
— The free will of human beings
Job’s so-called “friends” badgered him with continual accusations that his sickness must have been caused by his sin.
“Then Job replied: ‘How long will you torment me and crush me with words? Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me.’ ” (Job 19:1–3)
— Natural order (earthquakes, death, etc.)
Job’s heartache began when a messenger came to Job with reports of a horribly destructive tornado.
“Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you.” (Job 1:18–19)
— Evil spirit beings
God declared to Satan that Job was the most blameless man on earth. Afterward, Satan physically attacked Job’s possessions, his family, and his physical body.
“Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” (Job 2:7)
• God always has a good purpose for our suffering. His purposes can vary greatly. Sometimes …
— He allows suffering to expose our sin.
— He allows suffering.
— He allows suffering to produce much good.
— He allows suffering to change our perspective.
— He allows suffering to bless our future.
“We consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11)
G. What Is the Problem of Good?
The Bible says, “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil” (Romans 14:16). If the problem of evil is an argument for atheism, then the problem of good is an argument for theism. Simply stated, the problem of good is that God must exist in order for ideas such as goodness, fairness, love, and equality to have any meaning. The problem has 5 parts:
1. If there is no God, then nature is supreme.
God is by definition the “supernatural creator of the universe.” If there is no supernatural creator of the universe, then nothing is left except nature. Thus the laws of nature are supreme.
2. If there is no God, then nature operates by the principle of “survival of the fittest.”
Nature is therefore, cold, harsh, and indifferent. The “fit” creatures that adapt to their environment survive—those that don’t adapt, perish. Thus, the things that are smarter, stronger, prettier, quicker, or in any other way more fit to survive are more valuable.
3. If there is no God, self-preservation is the only ethic in “survival of the fittest.”
In “survival of the fittest,” self-preservation is the law of the land. If one can flourish by deception, then deception makes him “fitter” than others. If one flourishes by violence and brute strength, then strength makes him “fitter” than others. If murder, rape, theft, genocide, betrayal, or hatred contribute to survival and prosperity, then the act becomes “good.”
4. If there is no God, concepts such as goodness, fairness, love, and equality are irrelevant to self-preservation.
Self-sacrifice toward others plays no part in self-preservation. Under this model, self sacrifice—or being “nice” to others—is not “good” since it will not benefit oneself. Because all acts of self-preservation are “good,” there is no such thing as a crime. Love is an illusion, unless it is the kind of love that is self-seeking. Equality is meaningless unless it refers to making oneself equal to those who otherwise would be “fitter” than oneself.
5. Conclusion: If there is no God, then concepts such as goodness, fairness, love, and equality are illusions.
People search in vain for any basis for goodness, fairness, love, and equality apart from God. “Survival of the fittest” has been used to justify everything from slavery to genocide. Naturally, these practices are abhorrent to most people. This innate sense of goodness, fairness, and love is a powerful argument for the existence of God. Because we personally desire the virtue of goodness and because it is desired around the world, such goodness reflects the image of God.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Argument: “A God of love cannot be at the same time a God of wrath. These 2 attributes are incompatible.”
Answer: Love and wrath are not incompatible and can certainly exist at the same time within the same person.
• A mother who intensely loves her baby will, at the same time, have wrath against a child molester who intends to harm her baby. She might even have wrath against her own beloved child for being disobedient and for being disrespectful to her.
• When you read that “God is love,” the Greek word for “love” used here is agape, which means a commitment to seek another’s highest good. God is never without His love for you.
• His wrath is in response to sin and is expressed against anything that seeks to harm you or any other object of His love. This truth was illustrated in the Lord’s defeat of the Egyptian army as they pursued the Israelites in order to destroy them.
“The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’ But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.… In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” (Exodus 15:9–10, 13)
Question: “Did God know that Adam and Eve would sin?”
Answer: Because God is all-knowing and all-present, He is not bound by time. He knew that Adam and Eve would disobey Him. Yet He chose to create them and chose to give them free will so that they too could make choices. They would not be His pre-programmed robots. Scripture is clear that God’s plan for the salvation of mankind was in His mind even before the creation of the world. (Robots would not need salvation.)
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12)
Question: “Couldn’t God have made a world without evil?”
Answer: Yes … however, He also knew that a world of limited moral freedom would actually be an inferior world because virtues are defined by their opposites.
For example, a person can be selfless only if selfishness stands in opposition to it.
— Being selfless implies the possibility of being selfish.
— It is in overcoming self-centeredness that character is developed and virtue attained.
Although creating a world that became corrupted by evil resulted in God’s sacrificing His Son in order to defeat that evil, in His omniscience God knew that such a world would be the best world in which to prepare people for the best of all worlds—heaven itself.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ ” (Revelation 21:1, 3)
No book of the Bible is more closely identified with suffering than the Book of Job. This righteous man, Job, for whom the book is named, experienced one heartbreaking loss after another that left him with heartrending despair. Such pain and suffering—even in just one area of our lives—can leave us struggling with unanswered questions … even to the point of questioning God. Behind a profound loss usually lies a series of questions all beginning with, “Why?” Job bitterly cried out,
“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter in soul?” (Job 3:20)
A. Do You Feel That God Is Unjust?
Although Job had been an exemplary man—God called him “blameless”—in a short amount of time his entire life had collapsed. Feeling flabbergasted over his losses … feeling fiercely racked with pain … feeling falsely accused by friends … feeling completely forsaken by God … Job considered death far more desirable than life.
“Why did I not perish at birth,and die as I came from the womb?”
Like Job, Have You Experienced …?
|Disappearance of your possessions
|Job’s belongings were stolen. (Job 1:14, 15, 17)
|Dissolution of your partnership
|Job’s workers were suddenly killed. (Job 1:14–17)
|Destruction of your property
|Job’s property was totally destroyed. (Job 1:16)
|Death of your loved one(s)
|Job’s children tragically died. (Job 1:18–19)
|Dissipation of your finances
|Job’s wealth was instantly lost. (Job 1:21)
|Deterioration of your body
|Job’s body was severely afflicted. (Job 2:7)
|Distancing by your mate
|Job’s wife deserted him emotionally. (Job 2:9)
|Despairing of your life
|Job’s hope no longer existed. (Job 3:1–26)
|Disappointment of your dreams
|Job’s future seemed doomed. (Job 7:7)
|Damage to your reputation
|Job’s friends maligned him. (Job 12:4)
Question: “What did I do to deserve this suffering?”
Answer: Your suffering may be a result of consequences for which you are not directly responsible. Recognize that in a sinful world, both good and evil people will suffer. The Bible says, “He [God] … sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). But as a Christian, you have a promise from God that your suffering here on earth will one day come to an end. Then you will find yourself in either heaven (eternally in the presence of a holy God and with no suffering) or in hell (eternally apart from God and with eternal suffering). Do not become bitter from the pain.Instead, put your faith in God, know that He cares, and wait patiently for His help. God is present. Nothing will happen that He won’t equip you to handle.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)
B. How Did Job Respond to His Horrendous Ordeal?
Job’s perspective of life was thoroughly saturated with physical, mental, and emotional pain. He could not peer “behind the scenes.” Feeling robbed of joy, he saw death as the better option. Did Job see God as good? Read the points that follow and draw your own conclusion.
#1. Job, who does not deny or cover up his pain, acknowledges that the Lord has the right to decide what is given to him and what is taken away.
“ ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:21–22)
#2. Job, after confronting his overly critical wife, lives with obvious integrity and focuses on trusting God with their lives—with their present circumstances and with their future.
“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:9–10)
#3. Job suffers such severe pain that he wishes he could die. He honestly laments before his 3 friends.
“Why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?” (Job 3:16)
#4. Job repeats his desire to be cut loose from life in order to stop the pain, yet he focuses on being a man of integrity. If he were dead, he says,
“Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.” (Job 6:10)
#5. Job, though dismayed over his misery, admits that his God is the Maker of the universe and has performed innumerable miracles.
“He [God] is the maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” (Job 9:9–10)
#6. Job doesn’t stuff his feelings—even admitting to self-loathing, complaining, and bitterness—but then pleads with God to reveal what he has done wrong.
“I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me.” (Job 10:1–2)
#7. Job doesn’t understand why he has become a laughingstock to his friends; however, he continues to focus on the many attributes of God.
“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.… To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.… To him belong strength and victory; both deceived and deceiver are his.… He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.” (Job 12:10, 13, 16, 22)
#8. Job states that even if God were to kill him for attempting to defend himself or to argue his case, still—and he makes this clear—he will continue to trust in the Lord.
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.” (Job 13:15)
#9. Job answers that God has established the precise length of our lives—even has set limits we cannot exceed.
“Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (Job 14:5)
#10. Job, though distraught over his human accusers, realizes he has a heavenly advocate—an intercessor who is also his friend.
“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.” (Job 16:19–21)
#11. Job, who knows he is surrounded by mockers, restates that he will hold to righteous ways.
“The righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.” (Job 17:9)
#12. Job, in spite of feeling torn down by his friends and even by God Himself, focuses on seeing his Redeemer in the future.
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25–27)
#13. Job has no comprehension of why calamity has continued to afflict him, yet he still states that God is the highest judge.
“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22)
#14. Job, though he can’t find the Lord, realizes that he is not lost to the Lord—the Refiner who is testing him so that he will come forth as gold.
“He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” (Job 23:10–12)
#15. Job, who genuinely believes he is undeserving of such calamities, remains determined to defend his integrity.
“As long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” (Job 27:3–6)
#16. Job, after experiencing a deep encounter with God, realizes that it is only because of the extremity of his severe suffering that now he is able to “see” God.
“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5–6)
Conclusion: Although Job suffers severely in the furnace of affliction, he indeed comes out like gold—pure gold refined by the fire.
Question: “Why do Christians sometimes suffer for doing good?”
Answer: Evil is always in opposition to good. By its very nature, evil will seek to harm and destroy those who do good. The only real peace to be found in the midst of suffering is in the One who has made us to be at peace with God. In His time, this Prince of Peace will do away with evil and thereby secure total peace for all eternity for His followers. He Himself suffered for doing good. As His followers, we at times will also experience suffering for doing good. Jesus said,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.… If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18, 20)
III. causes for evil and sufferIng in the world
What part does God play in this pain-filled world? Does God bear all responsibility, some responsibility, or no responsibility? Many blame God for all the pain in this world, stating something like this: “An all-powerful God, responsible for creating the world, must also bear responsibility for causing all the pain in the world.” Others jump to the defense of God: “An all-loving God would never cause suffering—much less condone it.” Clearly, God does not cause all suffering. But those who try to “get God off the hook” for any pain and suffering have a mistaken mindset. Based on the sovereignty of God, our Almighty God even says about Himself …
“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”
A. What Is the Cause of Evil and Suffering?
There is no single clear cause for the evil and suffering in the world, for many variables can be involved. Therefore, several factors have to be considered in answering this question. However, it is clear that evil and suffering are the result of at least 6 different elements that may occur independently or in conjunction with one another. Ultimately, evil and suffering are …
1. The result of our choices
Because Adam and Eve made the choice not to obey God, they were expelled from their perfect environment to be subjected to suffering in an imperfect world.
“So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” (Genesis 3:23)
2. The result of the choices of others
Because of Adam and Eve’s choice to sin, all humanity is subjected to the consequences of their choice—suffering in an imperfect world.
“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” (Romans 5:18)
3. The result of some evil spirit beings
Because “the evil one,” Satan, channeled himself into the serpent, he deceived Eve and enticed her to sin.
“ ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:4–6)
4. The result of natural order
Because of “the fall,” there is natural pain and deterioration including natural disasters that impact all humanity.
“To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’ To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it,” Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.’ ” (Genesis 3:16–17)
5. The result of God’s permissive will
Because God gave Adam and Eve free will—the choice to obey or disobey—God permitted them to go against His will, and they suffered for it.
“The Lord God commanded the man ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ ” (Genesis 2:16–17)
6. The result of God’s perfect will
Because God stated specific repercussions if Adam chose to sin, when Adam did choose to sin, God’s perfect will was to be true to His Word—and Adam experienced “spiritual death” (separation from God) as discipline. (Note: God never causes evil, but He sometimes causes suffering as discipline for our higher good.)
“Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22)
Question: “Why do people have to go through suffering in this life?”
Answer: Adam’s choice to sin changed him from being innocent to being guilty and his nature from being sinless to being sinful. Therefore, all people have inherited a “sin nature.” As a result, we are born spiritually dead in God’s eyes, standing in need of spiritual life. Suffering is the by-product of both our sin nature and our subsequent sin.
“As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
Question: “Why does God allow terrible diseases such as cancer and AIDS?”
Answer: Throughout history terrible diseases have afflicted people. What we can cling to in the midst of the suffering they cause is that all suffering in this life is temporary and can drive us to God for comfort and strength. In truth, disease really should be terrible because sin is terrible. Were it not for sin, humans would experience no disease. And were it not for some of our poor choices, we could avoid many diseases that are related to improper treatment of our bodies and improper use of our bodies. In the final analysis, we are all destined to die—we just don’t know when or how … but God does.
“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:4–5)
Question: “Why do some people die at an early age while others live to be over 100 years old?”
Answer: The potter has power over the clay to form, to shape, and to break for his purposes. So does the Creator over His creation. The Lord plans and carries out His plans for each of His people. Some are designed and equipped for length of days and some for brevity of days. It is not the time you have on earth that is critical, but how the time is lived out and who you allow to have control of your life: yourself, another person, the enemy (Satan)—or the Lord.
“Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
Question: “Is a birth defect or the death of a baby the result of a parent’s sin?”
Answer: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In some situations, deformities and defects are the direct result of parents’ destructive choices.
— Parents who abuse their bodies with drugs or who carry diseases within their bodies cannot expect their offspring to be unaffected.
— Sometimes moral sins, alcohol, and medications can permanently damage unborn babies.
— Even the emotional and mental state of a pregnant woman affects the chemical makeup of her unborn child. In the case of King David and Bathsheba’s firstborn child, the sin of the parents resulted not only in an illness, but also in the death of their baby (2 Samuel chapter 12).
In other cases, deformities and defects are intended to glorify God.
“His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ ” (John 9:2–3)
Question: “Since my life is in such a mess, could God be punishing me for something?”
Answer: If you are a Christian, He may be disciplining you. If you are not a Christian, He may be using circumstances to demonstrate your need for Him. Both Christians and non-Christians experience the consequences for poor choices. (Read Hebrews 12:5–11.)
— “Punishment” has implications of revenge. God’s “revenge” for our sins has already been poured out on the Person of Jesus at Calvary. God does not “punish” His children.
— “Discipline” is a loving action that is intended to change our direction so that we are headed in a way that is beneficial.
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you.’ ” (Hebrews 12:4–5)
B. Why Would God Cause Pain and Suffering?
All too often, pain and suffering are the only tools we allow God to use to mold us and make us into the person He designed us to be. During our pain-free days, we go on our self-sufficient, carefree way, making a mess of our lives and distorting the image our divine Designer planned long ago. But our Maker, who loves us too much to leave us in this misshapen mess, picks us up with His perfect plan in mind, places us on His potter’s wheel, and puts intentional pressure on us—painful pressure—so that we will adapt to His design. Once we are willing to be conformed to His creation, He does His specialized work on us, in us, and through us. By respecting His right to us, realizing His power over us, and resting in His purpose for us, we will rejoice in His results … regardless of the pressure. Realize that for you, nothing will ever be more fulfilling than to be fashioned by God—even if by the tools of pain and suffering—in order to become the person He created you to be.
“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands?’ … Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
(Isaiah 45:9; 64:8)
God’s Purpose for Causing Pain
The Bible says …
• Suffering—when we are being disciplined—is a great demonstration of God’s fatherly love.
“The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:6)
• Suffering disciplines us—just as children are disciplined—for our good, to conform us to His character.
“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10)
• Suffering—when we respond the right way—brings us into right relationship with God and produces supernatural peace.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
• Suffering brings glory to God—amazing, spectacular glory—when He performs a miraculous healing.
“When he hears this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ ” (John 11:4)
• Suffering keeps us humble—preventing some of us from becoming conceited. The apostle Paul said,
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)
• Suffering requires us to live our lives being dependent on God’s power—we would not do so otherwise! In Paul’s weakened state, the Lord said to him …
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Question: “Why doesn’t God heal all those who ask for healing?”
Answer: Being a Christian does not prevent one’s body from succumbing to illness and disease. God desires to be glorified in our lives. Sometimes God uses an act of healing to glorify Himself, and sometimes He uses a particular, ongoing infirmity to glorify Himself.
— Healing is accomplished for some only after death, when God completely heals by giving that person a new, perfect, and eternal body.
— It would be accurate to say that God always heals―but not always when we ask for healing to occur.
— Additionally, if God healed in this life all who ask for healing, eventually everyone would ask and everyone would be healed. Subsequently, all suffering would cease, and sin would run rampant because God would have altered the consequences of sin.
Clearly, God does not heal all who ask, but He can continue to give us grace in our times of need.
“[Jesus said to Paul] ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I [Paul] will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
C. Key Questions about Evil
Question: “If God is intrinsically good, why would He permit evil?”
Answer: Some people argue that since evil exists in the world and God supposedly created the world, then God cannot be all good. However, God did not create an evil world; nor did He create a robot state where everyone is programmed to do only good and where no one is ever permitted to do evil. God created human beings with free will.
— He endowed them with the capacity to choose both good and evil.
— The problem of evil came about because people chose the evil of disobedience to God rather than the good of obedience to God, and as a result, the world changed. People have chosen evil ever since.
— The use of free will does not negate the goodness of God, but it sometimes exposes the badness of people.
— God permits evil, for He permits people to exercise their free will—and they choose evil. They can choose either evil or good—their own way or God’s way.
“The Lord God commanded the man ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ ” (Genesis 2:16–17)
Question: “Is evil a natural result of creation?”
Answer: No. The Bible says that the world God created was “very good” not very evil or a little bit evil. The Bible also says that one day the world will be restored to a perfect condition. If the world will be perfect in the future, then it was perfect at creation. Evil is not a natural result of creation, but a natural result of rebellion—the rebellion of Adam and Eve in disobeying God.
“God saw all that he had made, and, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
Question: “If God did not create evil, how did He create Satan, who is the embodiment of evil?”
Answer: God did not create “Satan.” He created “Lucifer, son of the morning” (Isaiah 14:12 KJV)—an angelic being who, because of rebellion against God, was cast out of heaven. Only after he sinned did he become Satan, a name that literally means “adversary.” Only then did he become the adversary of God and of all that is good.
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!… The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:9)
Question: “Why hasn’t God destroyed evil?”
Answer: Evil is based on moral right and wrong choices; therefore …
— God cannot destroy evil without also destroying the free will of His creatures.
— God determined that free will is for the greater good of humanity or He would not have made people free, especially knowing sin would occur and result in the death of His Son.
— If God had destroyed or never endowed the creatures He loves with free will—making them robots—that action could not be for their greater good.
God has already initiated a plan to eliminate evil. His solution is not to destroy evil in this life, but to overcome it—through Christ.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
D. Root Cause of Evil and Suffering
Although suffering is the result of “fallen humanity,” God’s highest purpose is to use it to conform us to the image of Christ in all we do and say. Then what is God’s ultimate purpose of suffering? He uses suffering for our good, making us more and more like the only One who is truly good!
“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Wrong Belief: “It’s not fair for God to allow good people to suffer.”
Right Belief: “God may allow suffering to touch the lives of certain people, but He does so only for a greater good in this life and in eternity.”
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
IV. steps to solution
After Job passed through his severe trial, he came to the realization that God was still there, still loved him, and was still providing for all of his needs. He saw beyond his circumstances and grasped a new vision and insight into the fairness of God. In Job 42:5–6 he states, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Sometime later, Job comes to the point of fully accepting God’s sovereignty. (Read Job 42:7–17.) Instead of questioning the goodness of God by asking, “Why do good people suffer?” Job spent the rest of his life humbly trusting God.
A. Key Verse to Memorize
“Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
(1 Peter 4:19)
B. Key Passage to Read and Reread
We can never attain a thorough understanding of the reasons for all the evil and suffering in this world. Yet as Christians, we do have God’s own Word (the Bible), which speaks of some reasons for His purpose in allowing human pain and suffering. Our first clue is revealed in Genesis, where Adam and Eve live in a state of bliss, yet by their own choice defy God’s only command. Does their disobedience not demonstrate that when left to its own devices, the human spirit will not surrender self-will to its Creator as long as “all is well”? This being the case, does suffering not then become a “gift” from God that allows us to experience the depth of His love that a life of ease could never conceive? Pain and suffering may take a hardened heart and point it to the inevitable truth that “all is not well,” thus opening the door to the profound reality that nothing that happens in this life will ever compare to the happiness and joy awaiting those who become children of God.
In spite of your present suffering …
|• Realize: Nothing will compare to the glorious future God has planned for you.
|• Realize: All that God has created eagerly awaits the glory that will be revealed in you as a child of God.
|• Realize: You see a world contaminated by sin, but God’s plan is for you to be liberated from your present bondage and brought into a marvelous freedom that is yours as a child of God.
|• Realize: It is plain even now, when you have eyes to see, that all living things are waiting for that day of deliverance.
|• Realize: Even when you have just begun to know Christ, you can now eagerly await the day when you will be free of all suffering and living in the fullness of Him.
|• Realize: You are saved by your hope in Christ, yet the meaning of hope is to wait and count on that which you cannot yet see.
|• Realize: If you hope for that which you cannot see, you must then wait eagerly, but with patience and endurance.
C. Key Questions and Answers about Salvation
Question: “Since the greatest good for mankind is that all people be saved, how can a good God send anyone to hell?”
Answer: God does want everyone to be saved. However, for people to be saved, they must freely choose to put their faith in Christ.
— Because God has given everyone free will, it would be impossible for Him to force them to place their faith in Him.
— People cannot be free and forced at the same time because that is a contradiction, making it an absolute or intrinsic impossibility.
While God desires that no one should perish, God has given everyone the free choice to repent of their sinful ways and yield their lives to Him.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
Question: “Why are some people saved and others lost?”
Answer: God’s desire is that everyone come to salvation through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet God will not force Himself on anyone. Everyone has the opportunity to accept or reject His free gift of eternal life.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Question: “Would God send someone to hell who never heard of Jesus Christ?”
Answer: All human beings receive “a candle of light” from God.
— If they refuse to respond to the natural revelation of creation made by a God of intelligent design, their hearts could become darkened and they may not be receptive to more light.
— If they respond to general/natural revelation or creation, He will illumine the revelation of Himself. Light rejected brings darkness and judgment. Light received brings the promise of more light. (Read Psalm 9:10; Psalm 19:1–6; Jeremiah 29:13; Luke 12:47–48; John 3:19–20; Romans 1:18–20; 10:14–15.)
“The Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)
Question: “How can a good God send people to hell who do not want to go there?”
Answer: Everyone who goes to hell chooses to go there by the decisions they make regarding God and their relationship to Him. God then honors their choices because He cannot do otherwise. Dr. Norm Geisler states, “There are two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell, chose it.”
“The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” (2 Peter 2:9)
Question: “Wouldn’t a fair God give people a second chance to believe in Him after death?”
Answer: God gives second and third chances—in fact, He gives many opportunities in this lifetime. But realize …
— Salvation is based on faith—choosing what is unseen, not what is seen.
— After death, we immediately see the consequences of our choice because the Bible says when Christians are “absent from the body,” we are “present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV). Death eliminates the need for faith.
— “Saving faith” willingly bows the knee to Christ when the option is available to do otherwise.
— Even up to the last minute on earth, everyone has the option to receive Christ. However, at death, every knee will bow, without an option to do anything else. In order be totally fair, God plainly communicated His plan in the Bible. There are no first or second chances in the next life. Hebrews 9:27 says, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”
Question: “How can I escape suffering throughout eternity?”
Answer: No one can escape evil and suffering in this life (John 16:33). We can and should expect trials and tribulations, problems and pain. Yet God, because of His compassion, promises to be our “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). But make no mistake: Our suffering is designed to be temporary—to come to an end. While there is a suffering that lasts throughout eternity, He has a plan to save us from that suffering. Eternal suffering takes place in the “eternal fire”—a place called hell (Matthew 25:41). Those who never want to be with God in this life have, in fact, already chosen to live without God in the next life. And those who choose not to live God’s way in this life have, in fact, already chosen not to accept God’s way into the next life. His perfect plan, however, is that we all escape such suffering.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
You Can Escape Eternal Suffering
Personal suffering throughout eternity can be avoided by understanding and accepting 4 vital truths in God’s plan.
4 Points of God’s Plan
#1 God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.
— What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To express His love for you by saving you! The Bible says,
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)
— What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life! Jesus said,
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
#2 Your Problem … is Sin.
— What exactly is sin? Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
— What is the major consequence of sin? Spiritual “death” … eternal separation from God.
“Your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God.… For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 6:23)
#3 God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.
— Can anything remove the penalty for sin? Yes! Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
— What can keep you from being separated from God? Belief in (entrusting your life to) Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)
#4 Your Part … is Surrender.
— Give Christ control of your life—entrusting yourself to Him.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross [die to your own self-rule] and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26)
— Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of earning God’s approval.
“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)
The moment you choose to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior—entrusting your life to Him—He comes to live inside you. Then He gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:
|Prayer of Salvation
“God, I want a real relationship with You. I admit that many times I’ve chosen to go my own way instead of Your way. Please forgive me for my sins. Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior. Change me inside out and make me the person You created me to be. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”
What Can You Expect Now?
If you sincerely prayed this prayer, look what God says (about you)!
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
Question: “Isn’t salvation unfair?”
Answer: Yes and no.
On the one hand, salvation is unfair because no one deserves to be saved.
On the other hand, salvation is fair because it is offered to everyone without discrimination.
Because everyone is guilty of sin, no one is condemned unjustly. Therefore, the only “injustice” is that sinners can be saved at all.
“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)
Question: “If God is really a forgiving God, why doesn’t He just forgive everybody?”
Answer: God offers to forgive everyone—but not everyone is willing to receive His offer of forgiveness. Justice requires that a penalty must be paid for our sin, and the penalty for our sin is separation from Him (spiritual death)—“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Since Jesus paid this penalty by dying on the cross for our sins, all who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ receive full forgiveness of their sins. God will not force anyone to receive His forgiveness. Therefore, the choice is up to each of us.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
D. If Jesus Is God, Why Did Jesus Have to Suffer?
Jesus is our Deliverer, our Encourager, and our example …
• Through His suffering, Jesus made possible our victory over sin and our spiritual healing.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
• Through His suffering, Jesus shows us how to keep from growing weary or losing heart.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross.… Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2–3)
• Through His suffering, Jesus showed us how to endure unjust treatment and to entrust ourselves to God.
“It is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.… To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:19, 21–23)
E. Can God Do Anything in the World?
If a skeptic asks a Bible-believer, “Can God do anything?” the predictable answer is “Yes.” And the biblical basis for this response is in numerous Scriptures, such as Jeremiah 32:27: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Someone could say, “If that’s true, then God could eliminate all evil and suffering now!” If you fail to qualify your own answer, you could fall prey to a number of trick questions. That is why we need to know how to avoid becoming flustered by learning how to give accurate, wise answers based on biblical truth.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
• Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?
However you answer this yes or no question, you know you are wrong.
— If you answer, “No, He cannot make a rock that He cannot lift,” you have just denied His omnipotence.
— If you answer, “Yes, He can make a rock that He cannot lift,” again, you have just denied His omnipotence. So, how do you answer this question? Simply state, “God has the power to do anything that is consistent with His divine character. Likewise, God cannot do anything that is counter to His divine character.” The Bible actually lists certain actions that are impossible for God, such as …
◦ God cannot lie.
“It is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18)
◦ God cannot be tempted.
“God cannot be tempted by evil.” (James 1:13)
◦ God cannot cease to exist.
“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and you years will never end.” (Psalm 102:25–27)
• Can God make a one-sided triangle?
— If you answer “No,” a skeptic could ask this follow-up question:
◦ “Does that mean God is not all-powerful?”
Simply state, “No, it simply means the answer is that God can do anything that is logically possible according to His divine character.” Before you answer a question, first evaluate whether the question is logical or not. This question is illogical because a triangle must be three-sided by definition.
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:4–5)
F. How Does God Use Suffering in Our Lives?
How can a good God have a purpose for evil and pain? Sometimes a change in perspective makes all the difference in our opinion about evil. Most people would say that it is morally reprehensible to stick a knife into someone. However, we let doctors do it all the time! Just as a doctor has a healing purpose to the hurt that he causes, God has a purpose for allowing pain.
This reassuring truth is well illustrated in the life of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and carted off to Egypt, where he was eventually unjustly jailed. After many years of being incarcerated, Joseph interpreted a troubling dream for the Pharaoh that led to his becoming Prime Minister of Egypt. Ultimately, he saved the lives of the Israelites, but only because God put him in a leadership position in a strange country under circumstances far from his own choosing. Joseph’s attitude toward his suffering is revealed in the statement he made to his brothers years later …
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
God uses suffering in our lives:
• To expose our sin …
— Suffering deters from going astray and leads to obedience.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” (Psalm 119:67)
— Suffering produces repentance that leads us to salvation from sin.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
— Suffering makes us more inclined to reject sin and to resist fulfilling our selfish desires. Suffering can lead to our living for the will of God.
“Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1–2)
• To build our character …
— Suffering develops contentment even when we are in need.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
— Suffering produces steadfastness, which in turn makes us emotionally mature and morally complete.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4)
— Suffering produces endurance, which is a catalyst to refine our character and renew our hope.
“We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3–4)
• To produce much good …
— Suffering, as well as success and everything else that touches our lives, will be used by God for our good.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
— Suffering gives Christians the opportunity to show care toward other Christians who suffer.
“There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:25–26)
— Suffering and the pain that we endure because of it, produces the compassion that equips us to comfort others.
“Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)
• To change our perspective …
— Suffering can reveal or manifest Jesus, who is living within us.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8–10)
— Suffering prepares great eternal glory for us.
“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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16–17)
— Suffering creates a hunger in us for heaven, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
• To bless our future …
— Suffering for living right in God’s sight secures the blessing of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
— Suffering proves our faith is genuine.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)
— Suffering with perseverance results in being blessed with the crown of life.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
Question: “Does God care about my suffering?”
Answer: God cares deeply about your suffering as demonstrated by the fact that …
— He encamps around you in the midst of trouble.
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)
— He is near you when you are brokenhearted.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
— He keeps a record of your grief and puts your tears in His bottle.
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8 ESV)
G. God’s Sovereignty
The word sovereignty means “supreme power” and “freedom from external control.” These definitions describe God perfectly because no higher power exists, and He is certainly free from other controlling influences.
“He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”
Seek God in prayer for discernment in your circumstances.
“Lord God, how I need Your wisdom, Your discernment, Your understanding.”
“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” (James 5:13)
Open your heart to God with complete honesty about your feelings.
“I am so confused—my emotions go up one minute, down the next.”
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22)
Verify your belief in God’s love for you.
“Thank You that You love me, no matter what.”
“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” (Lamentations 3:32)
Expect God to change your life through the truth He reveals to you.
“Thank You that through this trial, You will teach me and change me.”
“It was good for me that to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71)
Realize that God is all-powerful and sovereign over your circumstances.
“I realize that all power is in Your hands.”
“Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (John 19:10)
“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
Expect God to work through all things to prove your faith and to bring Him praise, glory, and honor.
“I realize that You will use all situations, even bad ones, to strengthen my faith and to glorify yourself.”
“You may have had to suffer grief in al kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)
Invest time in studying Scripture and in prayer.
“I want to immerse myself in Your Word and in Your truths.”
“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” (Psalm 119:15–16)
Gain an eternal perspective of God’s purposes for your present pain.
“I want to see beyond this situation to your purpose for it.”
“ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ ” (John 9:3) (Also read 2 Corinthians 4:16–18.)
Never allow bitterness to grow in your heart.
“I refuse to be resentful, but choose to rejoice in my relationship with You.”
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce not food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17–18)
Turn to the indwelling Christ, who provides you with His power for victory.
“Thank You that I can rely on Christ within me to live His life through me.”
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
Yield to God’s sovereignty. You may never understand or have any answers for your suffering.
“I don’t have to have all the answers, but I can know the God who does. I yield myself to Your sovereign control.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)
|When we enter our home in heaven, we will see how our sorrows made us sympathetic toward others—how our tears made us tender—how our dilemmas made us dependent on the Lord.
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