The Problem of Suffering and Evil
As a Critical Care Registered Nurse I see a great deal of suffering. I admit that some of this suffering appears to be purposeless. In the face of human suffering people tend to doubt God. The book of Job gives an answer for Job's suffering, but Job himself is not given an answer. We the readers get to look in on a scene in heaven that Job is not privy too, God has good reason for allowing Job to suffer but Job is never given the reason, only that he should trust the wisdom of God. We Christians believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-love; God created everything, and suffering and evil exist.
Should we blame God for our suffering?
I used to have a dog who would run through the house and crash into things hurting himself. If I was standing there, he would act as though I had done the harm. If I reached out to console him, he would run away yelping. It seems to me that blaming God for our suffering is a lot like my dog’s reaction in his suffering. Most people’s problem of suffering and evil is emotional; and therefore, not intellectual. Like my dog who blamed me for hurting himself, we humans blame God for our suffering. Allowed to fester, this blaming can lead to hatred. If God is all knowing, all powerful and all good why won’t he do anything about my suffering, or the suffering of others and end all the evil in the world? Once this blaming becomes hatred men attempt to kill God. The opponent argues that if God is all-powerful and all-knowing he should have been able to create a world without suffering or evil, and if he is all-love he would have wanted to; therefore, since suffering and evil exist, the God of the Bible does not exist.
Could they be correct?
The premise of the argument makes two assumptions:
- Being all-powerful means that God can do anything.
- Human happiness is the purpose of life.
First, God is all-powerful, but he cannot do anything. God is truth; therefore, God cannot lie because this would contradict his nature. Second, nowhere does the Scripture teach that the purpose of human life is happiness. The Scriptures teach that the purpose of human life is to know God and be conformed to the image of his Son. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (Jn 17:3, NASB) And the apostle Paul wrote; “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30, NASB)
Could God have a good reason for allowing suffering and evil?What if God made man in his image with the free will to choose right and wrong? God could not have created a world in which man had free will without the possibility of evil. God created the heavens and the earth and all that they contain; lastly, he created man and woman in his image with the free will to choose to follow him or not follow him. They chose to do as they pleased; human suffering and death are the result of that decision. (cf. Gn 1-3) The remainder of the Scriptures, Genesis 4:1 – Revelation 22:21 is a story of redemption; God drawing a people to himself by the Spirit, redeeming them by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through faith, and using the sufferings of this present day to conform us into the image of his Son. I do not have all the answers (I am not all-knowing), but I do know that the Scriptures testify that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-love. God is good and he is sovereign even in the face of human suffering and evil. The Scriptures are replete, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)