Why does God allow evil and suffering to exist? - Part 2
Why does God allow evil and suffering to exist?
In the previous article, the problem of evil was addressed with the following thoughts:
- The possibility of evil dates back to the early days of creation.
- God did not create evil, but he did create choice.
- Choice and obedience are indicators of love.
It was not an exhaustive answer, but instead of spending more time lamenting the evil that exists in the world, the article ended by raising a concern about the propensity for evil that exists in every one of us. Every evil thought, however large or small, includes a choice. We can choose to disobey God and carry it out or we can choose to pursue God and seek the path of love.
The experience of suffering, though it is related to evil, needs its own answer. Suffering can be found throughout human history, but the best place to start is at the cross of Jesus Christ.
The cross was a place of unusual suffering. (The word, "excruciating" comes from the word, "crucifixion") In addition to the physical pain, Jesus suffered the wrath of his Father by taking on the sins of the world. When he said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" he was lamenting the separation of an otherwise intimate relationship, because in that moment Jesus was treated as a sinner - for our sake. Why did he do this?
The cross was where Jesus demonstrated great love. (John 15:13; Romans 5:8) Timothy Keller, in his book, "The Reason for God" writes, "If we ask the question 'Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?' and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, we now know what the answer isn't. It can't be that he doesn't love us.'"
The empty tomb gives us hope. Suffering has limits. More than simply coming to an end when we die, suffering gives way to hope in the light of the resurrection. Like Jesus, we will be given new bodies that will never perish or fade away (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). They will not get sick and they will live eternally with God in a paradise that we were destined for (Revelation 21:3-4).
In the meantime, we need to acknowledge that some of our suffering comes from our own sins. God simply allows us to experience the consequences of our behavior.
Some of our suffering is for our own good, not just as a corrective but as a character builder. "We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4) God could have made us to learn without having to make mistakes, but it seems that, across the board, this manner of learning really teaches us well.
The harder questions about suffering include the suffering that is caused by the evil in others and the indiscriminate suffering that takes place as a result of natural disasters. As to the first of these questions, the Bible says that God will judge everyone according to their deeds. No one will "get off the hook." In the end, all will be made right. It may not be a satisfactory consolation for our present pain, but it will show God to be just. God will, in the end, also make the world right. Creation itself will be redeemed. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.
So why doesn't God just fix everything now? The interesting thing about questions is that one good question often leads to another, and then another. At some point, we run out of answers. The Bible doesn't tell us everything that we want to know. It does tell though that in the end, suffering will come to an end. "He will wipe 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." Until then, let us be glad for his patience (2 Peter 3:9). His delay in bringing everything to its proper conclusion simply means that many (perhaps even you) are being given time to deal with sin and enter his kingdom.