Suffering and God

How can a loving God allow such bad things to happen?

C.S. Lewis called the "problem of pain" the most potent weapon against the Christian faith.  Many begin to question, "If God is good then why would He allow such evil?  Is He is not powerful enough to stop this wrongdoing?"  Many religious leaders have been asked this question in light of the terrorist attacks recently in New York and Washington.  Perhaps one of the best responses came from Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham.  Answering this question from Brit Hume of Fox News Graham said, "it was not part of God's original plan, but sin came into the world… And as a result evil came into the world." 

So, what was God's original plan?  Throughout the first five days of the creation week God declared His works "good" five times.  This was in preparation for the crowning act of the sixth day, the creation of the chief image-bearer of God Himself, man.  In Genesis 1:31, after His completed creation, God made the pronouncement, "It is very good."  Thus, originally "bad things" did not exist.  In fact, we see just how special God thinks we are and how much He cares for us.

Notice also, the statement "it is very good" excludes the possibility of death and suffering as a part of man's creation.  Unfortunately, those Christians who teach the world is millions of years old and that man is the result of God using evolution are essentially teaching that death and suffering are "very good" in God's eyes.  This is essentially brings into question the very essence of the gospel message.  The Bible teaches that death and "bad things" came as a result of sin entering the world: "For the wages of sin is death…" (Romans 6:23).  Adam's sin brought evil into the world and thus God is neither evil nor the creator of evil.  Because we are descendents of Adam (Acts 17:26) we are the ones responsible for the death and evil in the world.  Our own individual sin separates us from God, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23).  God warned Adam that the penalty for sin would be death in Genesis 2:17.  Thus, the world we live in full of pain, suffering and death is the result of our sin in Adam and God's judgment of it.

The good news of the gospel is that there is an answer to this death.  Jesus became a man so that He could experience death as a payment for the sins of man.  In addition, He rose from the dead showing His ultimate power over death.  Those who put their faith in Christ as their savior from this promise of death are assured an eternal life with the Lord in a place without death: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4).  On the other hand, four verses later God promises a second death "in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone" for those who reject Christ. 

God does not condone wrongdoing and He hates evil and death.  God will set things right and evil will eventually be destroyed.  However, for the time being we must realize that the world is still under God's curse (Genesis 3:17) because of the rebellion of man. 

It is presumptuous to question God and His motives, "Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why hast Thou made me thus?" (Romans 9:20).  It is true that God allowed this terrorism to take place.  It is also true that God hated it and takes no pleasure in the calamities of people.  However, whatever God does is right.  "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).  Only by accepting this truth can we profit spiritually from the sufferings in life.

The Bible is clear.  Death did not enter the world until Adam sinned.  We are descendents of Adam and "all sin and fall short of the glory of God."  The horrible acts of terrorism against our country are a consequence of human evil and God is not to be blamed.  Instead God has provided a remedy for death and suffering for those whose hope is in Christ.   

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©Tom Carpenter
Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen