WHY DOES GOD ALLOW EVIL & SUFFERING?
by David Scholer
A 20-year-old woman had been murdered by her husband in her
mother's kitchen. The man then shot his 18-month-old son (who
survived) and finally killed himself. In the hours that I sat with
the grieving mother at the funeral home she repeated over and over,
"God wanted my daughter murdered."
In her grief and despair this woman was attempting to
and maintain what she believed about an all-powerful God in the face
of evil and suffering. We sense immediately that her conclusion is
not right; God could hardly have wanted her daughter murdered. Our
problem is, "How can a God who is both loving and all-powerful allow
evil?" It seems that God is either not loving enough or is not
powerful enough to prevent some evils. It is a dilemma, a legitimate
We cannot give complete answers to these questions. The
would not resurface generation after generation if there was what is
traditionally called an "answer." Yet, we are forced to say something
when someone asks, "If God is in charge of everything, why did He let
our friend have a heart attack?"
Reflection is important, if only to keep us away from
irresponsible thoughts about God that captivate some people from time
to time. These seven perspectives have helped me and others cope with
the problem of evil and suffering, even if they do not totally solve
or answer the problem.
GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OR THE CAUSE OF EVIL
"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For
cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone" (James 1:13).
Whatever the omnipotence and omniscience of God mean, they do
imply that God causes evil
SIN AND EVIL ARE REAL
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the
is not in us" (1 John 1:8). In the face of the first assertion, some
people have attempted to resolve the issue of evil by claiming that
there is no reality to sin and evil. This is a delusion. Both
experience and history on the one hand and biblical evidence on the
other are stout witnesses to the grim and fearsome reality of sin and
evil in our world and in our lives. The Bible affirms that sin and
evil entered our world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve
(Romans 5:12-14). And so, all of human history and God's creation are
subject to the reality of sin and death, decay and evil (Hebrews
GOD NEVER PROMISED FREEDOM FROM PAIN AND SUFFERING
The biblical stories are replete with examples, from Abraham
Paul, and of course the Gospel story of Jesus is itself the ultimate
confirmation that God never guaranteed deliverance from pain,
suffering, abuse or evil. The author of Hebrews points out this
reality: "Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able
to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18) and, "He learned
obedience from what He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8).
GOD USES PAIN AND SUFFERING FOR HIS PURPOSES
This must be the intent of Paul's affirmation in Romans 8:28:
we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love
Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Notice also the
Lord's response to Paul's request for relief from physical pain: "My
grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in
weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is another witness to the
conviction that God works through the realities of sin and evil.
I think the teaching that we should thank God for everything,
that which is evil, is wrong. It is not for everything that we thank
God, but in and through everything, for God is never overcome by evil
or sin but uses for His purposes even the tragic realities of human
experience. I do not need to understand how God's purposes work out.
It is enough for me to embrace the biblical understanding that God
does work in and through all experiences.
The Bible is clear that among God's purposes for us in the
of suffering and pain is the molding and strengthening of our
character. James wrote, "You know that the testing of your faith
develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you
may be mature and complete" (James 1:3-4). Challenge, even the
challenge of suffering and evil, can provide an unparalleled
opportunity for growth toward spiritual maturity.
WE HAVE GOD'S PROMISE OF LOVE AND COMFORT
Paul's assertion, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), is
consistent with the whole Bible; God provides comfort and support and
love and assurance to those who turn to Him in their sorrow and
EVIL AND SUFFERING ARE NOT EXPERIENCED BY ANY
AS GOD'S PUNISHMENT FOR SIN
In the introduction to the beautiful narrative of Jesus'
of the man born blind, Jesus' disciples asked, "Who sinned, this man
or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2)". Jesus explicitly
rejected the disciples' assumptions and declared that the man's
blindness provided an occasion for the good purpose of God to be
demonstrated: Jesus is the light of the world (John 9:3-5)!
Unconfessed sin and unbelief have their consequences. to be sure, but
this is not the answer to the problem of evil and suffering.
GOD HAS PROVIDED A TRIUMPH!
From the beginning of the Bible in Genesis to the final
in Revelation, the Bible reveals that God will triumph over sin and
evil. God's victory is given through the Lord Jesus Christ's defeat
of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). The reality and triumph of God's
raising Christ from the dead means that tribulation, distress,
persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life - indeed,
"nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from
the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).
More than 360 years ago Georg Neumark, as a youth of 20, was
robbed on his way to study law at the University of Konigsberg. He
had to give up his plans to study and wandered for some time as an
unemployed, destitute person.
Then he unexpectedly found a position as a tutor. On that day
young Neumark wrote what has become the well-known hymn, "If Thou But
Suffer God to Guide Thee." It was his expression of thanksgiving for
the grace of God in his life. And it was his testimony of trust in
God and the belief that God will "give thee strength, what e'er
betide thee, and bear thee through the evil days."
As we respond to God's calling, facing again and again the
of evil and suffering, we too can join together in the affirmation
that "God never yet forsook at need, the soul that trusted in Him
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