If There is a God, Why Is There Suffering in This World?
Boy, that's a question we have to address. Everyone eventually sees seemingly undeserved suffering or experiences it themself.
Part of living life is having an answer to big questions such as this one. Our answers will depend on how we see everything in life. Many call that a world view. Everyone has or will have a world view. And you've already seen how people have drastically different world views. People's world views on the same subject can be radically different and oppose one another. In history there have been those espousing racial prejudice as acceptable and even necessary. Others oppose it in all forms. Those positions come from world views. Now both of these can't be right. But how do we decide what is right? What determines a true world view? So what we're really talking about, then, is truth. Hang on, we will get to the answer of why there is suffering but we have to lay some ground work first.
Renovation Ministries wants to make you think about your world view and truth. If we don't accept racial prejudice as true or right, and remember some people do, then what basis do we have for saying we have the truth and they don't? So if we have a world view opposing racial prejudice, how can we justify our world view?
RM proposes that a valid world view will promote what is good for people and what works. Yes, of course, it can't be just that simple and it's not, but people who follow some religions such as Christian Science maintain that only God (in the form of a principle) exists and that everything else is an illusion. They say there is no matter and that material things such as a person's body aren't real. But wait -- if that's true, why do you feel pain? The Bible shows us that what man touches, feels, and smells is real. Jesus demonstrated the reality of matter. He became a living person (John 1:14), He was hungry, (Matt.4:2), and He gave others food to eat. (Matt. 14:16).
Christian Science also teaches that sin, evil, and death do not exist. From their book Science and Health, p. 234, we read "... Since God is All, there (is) no room for the opposite ... therefore evil, being the opposite of goodness, is unreal." Really? What about the suffering from war? Not accepting sin and evil, we maintain, is a world view that doesn't work. We have to deal with suffering even if we don't believe matter and suffering exist. But the Bible teaches us that sin is real and that it is from the nature and actions of man. So the Bible calls us to a world view that is reality, a reality that works.
Again, we propose that a valid world view promotes what is good and "what works." Now, "what works" will mean that we have to decide that if some things "work" and some things don't, then ... we have to conclude that some people's "truth" isn't true. Hang on, this is radical .... yes, truth, by definition, is exclusive. In other words, not everyone can have the same truth. You may not have thought this, but you already believe that truth is exclusive in several areas of life. You don't believe that 2+2= 5, so you believe in mathematical truth. You don't believe that you can survive jumping off a high building, so you believe certain things to be true and absolute about physics and human anatomy. And you believe certain ways of treating people are always unacceptable, so you believe in a level of moral truth.
Consider this ... that moral truth will include will include how we relate to God. We've got certain ideas we regard as right and wrong about how we relate to people, right? Since God isn't a Principle as in Christian Science, or an idea, or a vague "Man Upstairs" that can be defined limitless and contradictory ways, then because God is a personal Being then we have to have certain ways to regard and relate to Him.
Now God has revealed Himself on His own terms. In some ways He is much like us, and in some ways profoundly and radically different. He doesn't need us but chose to make us anyway to have fellowship with us. We read in Psalm 50:12, 13 -- "If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats?"
Okay. So if there's a real truth that's exclusive, if God is a real personal Being Who made us for a purpose, (and this implies He knows what's going on in our lives) then He must have some really good reasons for allowing suffering in life. As it turns out, He does. He does because His "world view" is different from ours, Him being, among many other things, perfectly true, eternal, holy, just; yes, even merciful, and He's light, perfect, faithful, and much more. Countless books have been written about this, but Renovation Ministries shows some, just some, of His reasons.
1. God made man in his image, that is, like Him in important ways – man has an intellect, he is a moral being (having some ability to tell right from wrong), and he has a personality, a will, and emotions. We read in Genesis 1:26-27—“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” So from day one, man got a job with a purpose.
Being made in God’s image, man isn’t a robot. With a will and a mind of his own he makes choices. But one reason suffering exists is that man deliberately chooses evil, to do wrong. The Bible teaches that man is not basically good but evil. Only the Bible teaches us the truth about God and human nature. We read in Romans 3:23, "... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." You've seen people who have it made in every way, with fame, fortune, the whole bit, but they still hurt themselves and others. That's because man's basic nature is evil. Yep. Hard to swallow, but God loves us enough to tell us the truth. Rest assured, He has an everlasting punishment for those who continually choose evil.
2. Sometimes God allows suffering into our lives to strengthen and refine us. It’s been said that the main difference between a lump of coal and a diamond of jewel quality is mainly pressure. We read in I Peter 5:10 – “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” People tested by suffering often appreciate life and others more, and have wisdom worth sharing. God often looks at things with an eternal perspective; we, a very short perspective.
3. Related to the previous proint, sometimes God allows a person to suffer even unjustly, and, when strengthened by God to survive, that person will show that God is real because God's presence and strength was the only way that person made it. There's a great story in the Bible about how a family didn't get along. It's about a young man named Joseph who was treated unfairly by his brothers. Well, much happened to him and you can read it in from Genesis, chapters 37-50. The point here is that how Joseph proved God is real by relying on Him when he had nothing else, and it's been been a great encouragement to many others worldwide through the ages when they themselves had nothing else. When we believe God is real then we begin to know Him, and He wants us to know Him.
4. Sometimes God punishes people in this life when we break His law. We read in Hebrews 12:5, 6 – “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines ... “ He also may discipline us to get our attention before we harm ourselves and others further. Sometimes suffering is the only thing that brings us to stop and really make us think about what we are doing. He may also punish us because we and our actions are evil. Indeed, a God of no justice would ultimately be cruel. And always remember, God’s laws are first to protect rather than to punish. RM maintains that a God worth believing in, a God that was really real, would have to be just. That means He would execute a real punishment for sin. If not, then He wouldn't care about our pain. Or His. Yes, we can, and do, grieve God.
Again, more can be said about why there is evil in the world. I may add points later.
Another question many have about Christianity is evolution. Does evolution disprove it? Click on the link at the left that goes to the article, "Evolution Isn't a Science but a Philosophy".
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