Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God when bad things happen? If God is really a God of love how can He allow evil in the world?
These and many questions like them have been asked through the ages. It just seems in a world of hurt it is difficult to balance and understanding of God being in total control. Many answer this question by the declaration that we “should never question God”. Certainly we should always remember God’s majesty and holiness. Certainly we should recognize His sovereignty. But great men of Scripture have asked the honest question “Why?”
There are a few reasons why suffering exist. The first reason is that we live in a sinful fallen world.
To properly understand suffering we must understand first where suffering originated. Genesis 3:1-8 (KJV) 1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
Though God created Adam and Eve in perfection, their willingness to follow Satan’s temptation rather than God’s command led to sin bringing about suffering and death. Ever since sin entered the world this world has been moving more and more toward destruction. We breath poison air, eat poison food, and drink poison water. Much of suffering is not so much as the direct choice of God as it is allowed because we deal with the consequences of a sinful world.
Another reason people suffer is also illustrated in the passage above from the garden of Eden. A large amount of evil and suffering in this world comes about because God allows free will of mankind. I love having free will. You probably do as well. But most of us wish some around us did not have free will. We want God to make this person or that person do what we want. Because people make sinful decisions in that free will, many times it affects us negatively. God has the power to force people to act a certain way. However, salvation is grand because God gives us the free will to choose or reject. The cost of free will among mankind is that sometimes other’s free will infringes on our peaceful existence.
A third reason for suffering is a direct consequence of sin. In other words, God loves us enough to chastise us when we willfully disobey Him. Hebrews 12:6-8 (KJV)
“6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” It sounds harsh to many but a loving parent would not allow their child to run into traffic. That parent will chastise the child not because of anger or hatred but because he/she loves the child enough to want to protect them from harm. God’s guidelines and commandments in Scripture are not given to hurt or restrict us. Dr. Adrian Rogers said many times “When God says don’t, what He means is don’t hurt yourself.”
A fourth reason suffering exist is to bring about a greater good. James says “2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” I have heard many people say “I will never pray for patience because I don’t want trials.” If we are being honest very few of us would desire trials even if we knew it would develop some very important spiritual traits within us. I can’t begin to understand the wisdom of God in bringing about specific trials for a specific good. I do know that my eyes right now are blinded by the things of this world. In seeing things from an eternal perspective we know that sometimes a temporary trial brings about an eternal attribute.
There are no quick and easy answers that give us a total understanding of suffering in this world. However, one of the greatest promises in Scripture is related to suffering. It was penned by a man that knew suffering at very great levels. The Apostle Paul had been imprisoned for preaching the Word many times. He had been beaten. He had been ship wrecked. He was snake bitten. He had many trials and difficulties but he said “7 And
the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (KJV)
If you are enduring a trial right now I would like to pray for you. “Dear Lord, I ask that you touch the life of this one who is reading. I pray that you would fill him/her with your grace and love. I pray that your peace, the peace that goes beyond understanding, would fill his/her heart to the point of overflowing. Give comfort as only you can. In the precious name of Jesus we pray, Amen.