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Why does God allow suffering? Theologians and philosophers have struggled with this question for ages. After all, if God is all powerful and all knowing, can't he prevent or stop it? For some people, this is a stumbling block to faith, and they never get past it.
I would not be so presumptuous as to claim an authoritative answer that others have missed. However, I do think there are some insights into this mystery, that God has provided in his Word.
The problem of suffering appears to be centered around free will. God created us (and the angels) with free will, and if he had not, we would be mere robots - not truly alive. He created us as free moral agents, with the ability to choose right or wrong.
However, freedom is a dangerous thing, since it can be abused. The Bible says that Satan was once a covering Cherub full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. It says he was perfect in all of his ways until iniquity was found in him (Ez. 28). God didn't make a devil, he created a powerful being who chose to become evil. In fact, pride was identified as the cause of his fall.
The Bible says he rebelled and there was war in heaven. The devil was cast out and his angels (one third chose to follow him) were cast out with him (Rev. 12). God could have destroyed them on the spot, but he doesn't want his creation to serve him out of fear, but out of love. In his sovereignty, he predetermined a set amount of time, to allow these issues to be experientially understood by all. That sin causes suffering, that evil must be destroyed because of the terrible consequences it brings.
Ecclesiastes 3:17 God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed
To this day, fallen angels, and also fallen men, are in rebellion against God and make war against his saints. Many battles take place in the Spiritual realm, and like any war there are casualties. Sometimes innocent children are hurt or killed. No one is more grieved by this than God, but rest assured, not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his knowledge and care (Mt.10:29).
Vengeance is mine sayest the Lord and although it may seem (from our limited perspective) that injustices and cruelty go unanswered, they do not. God is independent of time (as we understand it), and every crime will meet with judgment in the end (Heb. 10:30).
Judgment is coming, sin and sinners will be no more - there is a set time and place when all this will end (Rev. 20:11). Scripture says affliction will not rise up a second time (Na.1:9). God's principles will be vindicated as righteous and all of creation will worship him in love, without doubting his leadership. They will have freedom, but will not abuse it, nothing impure will remain (Rev. 21:27).
It is written that God is not mocked - we will reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7). God is not mocked because when you choose to remove God from your life, you have no protection from the devil, or from your own evil impulses. Most of us are self destructive and our own worst enemies. It's not that God strikes you down, he respects your freedom and backs away. God is not mocked also, in the sense that no one gets away with anything. Judgment is coming and all your secrets are bare before him.
There will be a happy ending to the story, for all but the unrepentant. Those who turn in repentance to God, and the innocents who suffered at the hands of the wicked, or those who died cruelly from famine or disease before even having a chance to develop - have a God of infinity power and love to restore and heal them.
The Bible says God himself will wipe away our tears (Rev.21:4), and that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even entered into the heart of man – the things God has in store for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9). Those who have suffered in this short life, have much to look forward to - for eternity (Is.65: 17).
It's our linear view of time, our finite minds, our myopic perspective, that prevent us from grasping the ultimate meaning and purpose of this enigma. The great apostle Paul suffered beatings, scourging, stoning, persecution, opposition, shipwreck, peril, privation, imprisonment, and was eventually beheaded - yet he said this:
2 Corinthians 4:17 Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.
There are different reasons and causes for hardship and suffering. Not all suffering is senseless and cruel! There is a form of suffering that is actually good and beneficial. We are told that God disciplines those he loves, like a Father meting out punishment to an erring child. Such discipline is unpleasant, but for our ultimate good (Heb. 12:7-11). We must trust his plan for our lives. Besides corrective discipline, God allows trials and tribulations to strengthen us, and cause spiritual growth.
Romans 5:3 ...we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn't disappoint us...
Gardeners sometimes prune plants to cause them to grow better. Some things (we perceive as bad or unpleasant) God allows because of the harvest it produces in us Spiritually. This is another form of suffering that is actually good for us, in the long run.
You see, God is not a cosmic Santa Claus like some teachers make him out to be. He is far more interested in forming a right character and faith in you, than he is in spoiling you with wealth, or lavish creature comforts. He may even allow the devil to deprive you of your worldly comforts, to try your faith.
Job's faith was tested and he was a better man because of it. The fact that God gave back double what was taken from him, was just an added bonus to the real benefit - faith tried in the furnace of affliction.
Isa. 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.
I remind you that I am not talking about the sinful, senseless, mindless brutality that sometimes occurs. Sin and the suffering it causes, is not God's will. He created the earth to be a garden of Eden, which we forsook. Unfortunately, our way back to Eden, is a difficult, rocky, narrow path - not the broad road of ease and self indulgence.
Acts 14:22 "We must endure many hardships to get into the kingdom of God."
1 Peter 1:6-7 ...you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials...
Peter says above that the trials have a definite purpose - to test and purify our faith so that it is genuine. He says below that we should consider it normal, not strange, that these fiery trials come...
1 Peter 4:12-13: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you...
It is also helpful to keep in mind that the tests God brings, are only for a season. When their purpose is complete, God himself will restore and establish you. Perhaps in a new level of responsibility, or with greater power to operate in. He is growing you up into Christ, refining you, strengthening you, leading you into greater things...
1 Peter 5:10 ...after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
Job 23:10 ...when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
Why do some blame God? We chose to join the devil in rebellion. God is doing everything that he can (short of taking away our freedom), to lead us to love and truth. He sent the prophets and we stoned them, he sent his own Son and we brutally tortured and killed him. We chose to crucify Christ, rather than repent and learn to love one another, as he taught.
God loves us so much, that he endured watching us torture his Son - just so he could save those who would choose to turn from sin and suffering. Jesus loves us so much, that he took the abuse, in order to save us from ourselves, and the devils manipulations. God himself suffers and is grieved, he can identify with you in your sufferings.
This brings us to grace. Jesus provided a way for you to wipe the slate clean, even if your sins have caused great suffering to others. He took the punishment you deserve, and if you will allow him to (freewill), he will apply the merits of his sacrifice to cover your sin. He will also transform you, by the renewing of your mind, and form a right character in you - if you allow his Spirit to indwell you.
Rev. 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Notice that God is actively seeking entrance to your heart. He seeks, he knocks, he calls, but it's up to you to open the door and let him in. He doesn't force his way in, a synergism exists whereby God initiates and we respond.
Please don't get lost in the endless arguments between Calvinism and Arminianism. The extremes of both positions are wrong. A strict fatalistic monergism is flawed, as is an over emphasis of man's part in the synergy, such that God's sovereignty is not acknowledged.
Our freewill exists within the predetermined limits that God, in his sovereignty, has imposed
God foresaw the problem of sin. In fact, the plan of salvation was predestined before the world was formed. Rev. 13:8 the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world...
The plan of salvation was predestined, but your participation in it is a freewill choice
It's up to you to choose the free gift of salvation by faith in Christ, or to continue in sinful rebellion until God is forced to end the suffering you are causing - the hard way. The finally impenitent will meet their fate.
2 Peter 2:5 he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people...
Psalm 37:38 But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off...
Romans 6 For the wages of sin is death...
Ezekiel 33:11 - As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.
Unfortunately, most people just don't get it. Don't blame God for what the wicked do, blame the wicked for not doing what God does – love.
Also, rest assured, judgement will be executed and the rebellion will be put down - along with the suffering it causes. For the people of God, there will be peace, love, and beauty forever - as it should be.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
Rev. 21:3-4 “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. 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.”
Great read Ken. If more folks could grasp what the Bible teaches us, on every matter of life, the better our short stay here on Earth would be. Excellent.
Barry & Teena
Thanks.. I'm glad you liked it.
Very good teaching Ken! In the heat of the spiritual battle, we need to read this very message, edifying us to keep faithfully fighting on in the battle lines. There is only ONE scripture that I found might also be good to add to your message, lol...only to confirm everything you have said, once again, and which has been coming to me for the past 3 days. With your message here, God has provided all of the other scriptures I was hunting. God is Good!
1 Peter 4:12,13: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice , inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy .
I have the ability to edit the message so I can add that somewhere. I actually used it the other day on Facebook with an old friend who can't understand why God allowed the devil to cause Job's suffering.
You are right it would help to make the message even clearer - we should expect such things and not think them strange - God works in mysterious ways, there is a purpose behind the fiery trials.
Ken, your timing in posting this message is what is amazing! I know the Lord used it to give me the other scriptures regarding that one I had, lol. I love it when the Lord does that, and your message ministers to not just ME, but so many others too. God is a multitasking infinitessimal God! Don't know if I spelled that right, lol! But Glory to God for him giving you the unction to post this right now!
I have not yet gotten to the place that I am "rejoicing" at the fiery trials, but this is a guideline that we are to strive for.
Praise God and glory to God for this great teachings it has touched my heart .If we shall believe the word of God we shall have more life .May God bless you more and more for this great work as many people continue to be blessed.Amen.
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 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."
Ken, I whole heartedly agree with your teaching. I posted the above verse of Scripture only to show the beginning of suffering.
Suffering came to mankind because of sin! Adam and Eve could eat of any tree in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As soon as Eve yeilded to the serpants temptation and ate of the tree of life and knowledge of good and evil, man began to suffer and die. Thus suffering became a part of our death that man was cursed with. If man had obeyed God's command we would have eternal life like we will when we get to heaven (after death). When we were borned we began to die. There were only 2 men that didn't die (Enoch and Elijah). I personally believe they will be the 2 witnesses spoken of in Revelation. The Antichrist will kill them, but God will raise them up again. In the old Testiment forgiveness of sin was obtained through the blood of a sacrificial lamb. When Jesus died on the cross, He became our sacrifice for sin, and by His Grace and Mercy we are saved and our sins are forgiven. Still we will ALL die until Jesus' return. Thus we face suffering. and God can't or won't free us from this, but He will go with us through these trying times.
Rev Zack Martin Sr.
Thanks for your input. Indeed, we suffer from the curse:
Genesis 3:17 “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
Genesis 3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
It's readily apparent that we didn't start out in this unpleasant situation. We suffer as part of the curse brought on us by our choice to sin, and have lost our original idyllic estate.