If God is Good, Why Is There So Much Suffering in the World?
The Bible teaches that God is all-powerful, able to do anything He wants. The Bible also teaches that God is thoroughly good. Yet bad things happen.
People reason: If God is good and all-powerful, He shouldn't let bad things happen; since they do happen, either God isn't good or He isn't all-powerful. The Bible teaches that God made us to love Him. Because of this, God gave us the freedom to respond to that love, or to reject it. Love is meaningless unless it is freely given and freely received.
The first use of free will, according to the Bible, was by the first humans, Adam and Eve. They made the purposeful choice to disobey God and remove themselves from His leadership. Each of us, like Adam and Eve, has used our free will in ways that has reflected rebellion and disobedience against God. All choices come with consequences, else they were never really choices. The decision to reject God's leadership altered God's original design for how the world would operate and how life would be lived, ushering in sin and evil as well as the consequences of sin and evil. Theologians have termed this the "fall," and point out that we now live in a "fallen" world.
Remember, however, that God is not the author of sin and suffering - we are. God let us choose, and we did. Evil is the rejection or absence of God's goodness in a situation, as darkness is the absence of light. Our choices can be used in a way that rejects His love and can have terrible consequences. But God has determined that the gift of free will is worth it.
Could God step in and stop the consequences of our choices? Yes, but He doesn't, for to do so would violate our free will, and the violation of free will would end the possibility of true relationship between us and God. So where is God in the suffering? Right in the middle of it. He is in grief over how free will was used to reject Him. That's why He has invested Himself in the process of healing the wounds that have come from our choice by entering into the suffering process with us in order to lift us out of it.
Jesus on the cross was God entering into the reality of human suffering, experiencing it just like we do, in order to demonstrate that even when we used our free will to reject Him, His love never ended.
God could wipe out all evil and suffering at any time. But if at midnight tonight God decreed that all evil would be stamped out in the universe, not a single person would be here at 12:01.
God's hope is that you will instead be given the time to search, and that your search will result in an authentic relationship with Him. So the real question is whether, as a seeker, will you allow the reality of pain and suffering to drive you away from God, or to God?
Used by permission of James Emery White, and adapted from his book A Search for the Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998). To purchase a copy of this book, Click Here
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