Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Suffering … why?
Dear Father Paul: Why does your “loving God” allow so much suffering in the world? — Brad
Dear Brad: Thank you for your question. Pastors get it a lot. The question is fair and is perfectly legitimate. If God really does love us, then why does he allow all the suffering we see around us?
As a preacher, I try very hard to make sure that all my answers to questions I receive for this column are biblically based. Why? Because I believe that the Bible is literally God’s word to us, i.e., the absolute, eternal, unchanging ”truth” directly from God to mankind. In short, if you want the “truth,” look in the Bible.
Today, over 75 percent of Americans say in polls that they do indeed believe in God, but around 25 percent say that they are seriously skeptical or that they do not believe in God. Interestingly, the Bible has a word for the latter. Psalm 14:1 (New Living Translation) says this, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘there is no God.’” So, for whatever it’s worth, God calls non-believers “fools.” His words, not mine. The Bible is God’s encouragement and plea for “fools” to become wise by following him.
About itself, the Bible says these words in II Timothy 3:16 (NLT) “All Scripture (all of the Bible) is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
But God didn’t make us robots. He doesn’t “force” belief in himself upon us. No. Belief — or non-belief — is our free choice, a wonderful gift from God, given in the beginning, to Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.
There is one huge problem with the thinking of many who say (as you imply Brad) that, “a God who really loves men and women would never, allow them to suffer.” Think about that. If that notion were indeed true today, then a huge number of people would certainly and quickly become and always remain believers! Right? It would be a no brainer. I mean, who among us wouldn’t choose to always believe in and follow God if doing so meant a guarantee to never ever suffer any pain, tears, sickness, loss, death or disappointment of any kind? Who? Our parents, Adam and Eve, that’s who!
In the Garden of Eden God offered our parents two choices … (himself) life … or (Satan) death. And they, of their own free will, chose death. “How dumb can you get,” you say? But people are still making this wrong choice today. Think about it. Adam and Eve sold an entire planet for a couple of bites of fruit and their wrong choice still deeply effects their descendants (us) today. Check out the Creation Story in Genesis 1 – 3, then turn on your T.V. or pick up a newspaper. You will see that our entire planet is engulfed in human suffering!
It is no wonder then that the Bible throughout calls people (you and I) “sheep.” Animal experts will tell you that sheep are probably the dumbest animal on the planet. We call Adam and Eve “dumb,” and they were, but the Bible teaches that many of us have made the same bad choice that they did … eternal life for the lies of Satan.
So we see that, in fact, God does allow suffering. And suffering was brought to earth by Satan because of humankind’s poor choice way back in the beginning.
Adam and Eve freely chose Satan over God and earth instantly became and remains a “fallen planet,” with its people constantly tormented by God’s arch enemy — Satan. Thus, there are now on planet earth the things which Satan always brings … war, suffering, pain, sorrow, tears, poverty, prejudice, hate, crime, disease, evil and death. If you doubt this, again, just turn on your T.V.
Now … God could have just simply walked away, but he didn’t. In his great love, he offered mankind a second chance through repentance of sin (wrong choices) and faith in his son Jesus. The Bible teaches (read Revelation chapters 20, 21 and 22) that at an unexpected time Jesus will return to the earth to gather to himself forever all those who have (freely) repented of their sins, and trusted in and followed God. For these all suffering will cease. I hope this answers your question Brad. There is hope for you, for me and, yes, for planet earth.
Do you have a question or a comment? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. See www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com for information.