One of the main excuses people give for rejecting the idea of a loving God, is the fact that there is so much suffering in this world. Their rationalized logic goes something like this: since there is suffering, then God is either not capable of ending the suffering, or He does not want to end the suffering; therefore, if there is any God at all, then He is either powerless or tyrannical. The existence of suffering means that God cannot be both all loving and all powerful, so He is not the God of the Bible.

For example, Charles Templeton decided to reject the omnipotent, benevolent God of the Bible, after “serving” Him for several years in the ministry, when he saw a photo. The photo was a picture of a mother crying because her baby was dying. His reasoning was that the baby was dying because of a drought and no one but God controls the weather, so this suffering disproved the existence of the God of the Bible.

Some would call this line of reasoning by the term “philosophy,” but that would not be exactly the correct word for it, since philosophy means the love of wisdom, and there is nothing wise about it. Since the gap in this logic is hidden, so that the conclusion seems reasonable, the correct word for this would be “sophistry.” Let’s turn to the Bible to shed light on this ideology to show it for the fallacy that it is.

In Genesis we see that God created everything very good. This evaluation was by God’s own standard, so it was perfect. There was no suffering in Eden. Of course, if we lived in Eden today, the foundation for the fallacy against a loving God would not exist. So, are we done refuting the sophistry? No, not yet. If we stop here, we have Deism; those who believe God created, but lacks the love or power to prevent suffering today. It is the suffering today that is the foundation for the sophistry. A Deist would argue that Eden is just a story made up to get God off the hook.

So, we need some more insights from God’s Word. In Genesis we see that the world was cursed due to Adam’s sin. God warned them not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam rebelled against God’s throne, against God’s commandment, and plunged the world into sin, death and suffering.

Let’s park here for a minute, before we go on, to look at the correlation between sin and suffering. It is not always some specific sin of mine that causes some specific suffering of mine, is it? Let’s look at some examples.

Job 1-2

According to God, Job’s trial of faith was not due to his sin. God said to Satan that Job was destroyed without cause.

John 9:1-3

Sometimes people suffer because of their own sin, sometimes people suffer because of someone else’s sin, e.g., Adam’s sin. Jesus said this blind man suffered “that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Luke 24:25-27

It is clear that Christ suffered for our sins, since He had none of His own sins.

OK, so we can see that there is not always a direct correlation between a specific sin of mine and some specific suffering of mine. I will point out why this is important a little later.

For now, we are back to the stage in our Biblical analysis where the world is suffering because of Adam’s sin. So, have we been successful in moving the blame for suffering from God’s shoulders and placing the blame on Adam? Close, but not quite. Why not? Because our antagonist, though his argument is weakening, still counters that God is punishing us for Adam’s sin and that is not just, so God is not good. This is an attempt to put the blame back on God, using smoke and mirrors. It is still the same sophistry, but it is starting to be easier to see the foundation crumble when we realize that all have sinned. Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Throughout history, we have proved that we would have done the same as Adam. It is as if Adam represented us in the trial. Even though he was in a perfect environment, with no hardships, no lack of necessary knowledge, no degradation of mental capabilities from genetic faults, he still rebelled against God.

The last vestige of an argument from God’s antagonist is that God should not have allowed sin, thus suffering, into the world at all. This idea is so weak that it is almost self-refuting, but let’s look to God’s Word again to finish. I will grant that God knows better than us, so who are we to question the way He runs the universe. Even though I will grant that, an unbeliever will not. God’s Word has given us some insights into why sin is allowed, so let’s look at some of them.

There are at least three Biblical reasons that this last argument does not stand:

1) God made paradise on Earth. There is a second paradise, also made by God, where there is no suffering. We ruined Eden with our sin, but sin will not be allowed into the new paradise. If it were not for the sin of mankind, no one would die, and there would be no suffering, painfully hard work, disease or thorns. This evil is temporary, and ends in Heaven. So, God has made a world where sin is not allowed and you can choose to go there. This life is your time to decide.

2) God has a purpose for suffering. We learn a lot from suffering. Satan carries out the evil, but God can use all of it for good. It is the knowledge of good and evil. One of the ways we learn about God is by getting a taste of what the world is like without Him. It is like the black in the painting that brings out the colours more brilliantly. Here is where it helps to remember that there is not always a direct correlation between some specific sin of mine and some specific suffering of mine. God created the tree, now we have an entire world of knowledge of good and evil. This life is your time to decide.

3) God made us in His image. If He did not make us with a will to choose, then it would be the same as not making us at all. In order for us to do good, then there must be an alternative. Some claim it is unjust for God to create us with the ability to sin, then punish us when we do. Those same people are stealing God’s own standards of right and wrong, justice. This standard is then applied backwards. It was not evil for God to create us with a will to choose. Furthermore, it is your own decision when you sin, and God’s justice demands condemnation for evil. Do you really want justice, or would you rather have forgiveness? This life is your time to decide.

In the book of Job we have some lessons about the reasons for pain, death, and suffering in this world. Notice that evil men attacked and killed Job’s servants and stole his possessions. God attributed these evil actions to Satan. The point here is not to say that people are not responsible for their own evil actions, but that Satan was the conspirator behind all of this destruction and loss.

There are definitely occasions when we suffer because of our own sin, but one of the main points of the book of Job is that he was suffering in spite of his righteousness, even because of his righteousness. God said to Satan that Job’s destruction was without cause. This helps us to understand that suffering is not evidence of unrighteousness. This seems obvious, since it is easy to find examples, in the Bible and in our own experiences, of those who suffered for righteousness. But that is the very mistake made by Job’s three friends. They claimed that his suffering, and only his suffering, was sufficient evidence to prove that there must be some hidden sin in his life. We can learn from their mistake, or face God’s rebuke, as they did. God convicted them of folly and sentenced them to repentance and offering of sacrifices.

God knows best. We can learn from the book of Job that God is in control of, and limits the influences of, the evil affecting our lives. We can trust Him to gauge and foresee the blessings that only He can envision resulting from our trials. Jesus suffered unimaginably, then died on a cruel cross. From an earthly perspective, this was the most tragic event in history. Not only was it the most agony ever suffered, but it was the highest injustice, due to His complete innocence. From an eternal perspective, this same event was the pinnacle of history. No greater deed has been done. No greater love has been shown. The contrast between these two perspectives, of the same historical event, is a wide chasm. We cannot see across this chasm. We cannot judge, from our limited earthly perspective, the whole picture. Since we cannot see from God’s perspective, until He shows us, we also cannot reject the idea of a loving God on the basis that there is so much suffering in this world.

Psalm 119:71 [It is] good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

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