Why Does God Allow Suffering?

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

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If God is truly loving and merciful, why does He permit so much pain, evil and misery? Tune in to discover answers.

Transcript

[Steve Myers] I’m here on location in Germany at an infamous site that’s the embodiment of misery.

Suffering plagues our world. It falls on the just and the unjust. It afflicts innocent victims. Abusive punishments to deliberate killing; genocide to disease. And then there’s the everyday pain. Why is there such human misery?

It leaves us with a critical question: Where is God in all this? It seems to be a paradox. So what’s the answer?

How can there be such anguish and suffering when the Bible describes a loving God?

Stay tuned to this special edition of Beyond Today as I examine the causes of suffering from a biblical perspective. That view is realistic, but it’s also encouraging. Join me as we discuss: “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”

I’ve come to the beautiful Grunewald area on the western outskirts of Berlin. Behind me—the Berlin-Grunewald railway station. But, underneath this picturesque charming exterior is a dark history.

This concrete memorial and the embedded silhouettes represent those who suffered so greatly not all that long ago. World War II brought a level of death and destruction never seen before or since. That war introduced mankind to monumental horrors, represented by these shapes and shadows.

Considering the evil and pain that so many had to endure, you can’t help but ask, “How can a good God allow the evil of suffering?” Is it God’s fault that there is war and agony?

Almost 80 years ago, a new horror was introduced by the Nazi’s in World War II—death camps. Originally set up as camps for prisoners of war, in short order they became a way for the Nazis—the National Socialist Party—to collect groups of people they wanted to keep an eye on. Then the camps turned from being just holding areas for undesirables, to the means to cleanse them from society.

The evidence of evil and suffering is all around me here at the Grunewald railway, Track 17 Memorial.

During World War II, deportation trains carried Berlin Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in the east departing from right here—from this very train station.

This sign says, “In memory of those deported to the death camps on trains from here [from] 1941-1945.”

God allowed this. But it is totally opposite of what our loving Father intends for His children.

Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:18 Luke 4:18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
American King James Version×
).

Far from pain and agony, this and many Bible passages show that God wants only the best for us. He wants us to enjoy wonderful benefits of being His children forever.

Nevertheless, life can bring much hurt. Certainly, the war magnified mankind’s cruelty and the horrible suffering that so many endured.

Yet suffering didn’t end with the war. So many are suffering today and we can’t help but ask, why?

The ethnic cleansing and the extermination of the Jews—the holocaust; started here for so many.

Some 50,000 Jewish were rounded up and deported from this site by the Deutsche Reichsbahn between 1941 and 1945. Without this railway, the deportation of that many Jews to the extermination camps would not have been possible.

This underscores why evil and suffering exist. It’s not God’s intention, that’s not what He wants for mankind. Instead, He’s given us free will and tells us how to make the best choice. We find that in Deuteronomy chapter 30: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish… I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19 Deuteronomy 30:15-19 15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil; 16 In that I command you this day to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the LORD your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it. 17 But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18 I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days on the land, where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×
).

So we see that God doesn’t force us to make right choices. He gives us the opportunity to choose good and to develop His righteous character. But the challenge is that mankind also has the freedom to choose evil.

It was right here on this platform, where tens of thousands of Jews were forced to line up and board the trains bound for sorrow and misery. What a stark reminder of the immense evil man can inflict on others.

Yet it’s also a reminder that God is not the One at fault. Jesus said, “For out of the heart…” That’s the human heart… “come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matthew 15:19 Matthew 15:19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
American King James Version×
).

Now just imagine the children, torn from their mothers, wives separated from their husbands—inhuman conditions; forced to abandon homes and removed from their families and sent to the death camps.

The apostle James summarized the tendencies of mankind: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war…” (James 4:1-2 James 4:1-2 1 From where come wars and fights among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not.
American King James Version×
).

This place is a symbol of the inhumanity of man confirming what James said.

The main element of this memorial are these cast steel plates that are lined up all along the tracks. There are 186 of these plates, all in chronological order. And each one lists the date of departure, the number of deportees, where they left from and their final destination. Now here’s an example. On the 28th of June 1943, 319 Jews left right from here, from Berlin, destined for the death camps at Auschwitz.

Now there are some of these plates that list over 1700 Jews that were deported to the death camps in one day.

A place like this causes you to consider the kind of God that we have. Freedom of choice is something that God Himself has given mankind. In fact, it’s a part of His great plan. He does not force us down a particular path, but He allows us freedom of choice—to choose our own way to go. We can choose the direction of our life because He’s given us liberty and self-determination.

So God made mankind with the ability to choose his own way. But, He also allows evil and suffering. But He doesn’t like it. Proverbs 15:26 Proverbs 15:26The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.
American King James Version×
says, “Evil plans are an abomination to the LORD” (NRSV).

So even as horrible as the holocaust was, even when we personally are going through trials and suffering, we shouldn’t blame God for it. If we do—we really don’t understand God.

Freedom of choice allows for both good and evil outcomes.

Here it’s clear that the cost can be enormous. Our choices can lead to disastrous consequences. Wrong choices are the cause of most of the suffering we see in the world today as well as what happened here in the past.

It’s our free will—our freedom of choice, our free moral agency—that provides the key to understanding why God allows evil and suffering to exist.

Now this inscription is a reminder of the evil choices that men make to inflict pain and anguish on others.

But God wants us to make the right choices. He wants us to choose to be like Him. To develop His righteous character.

This place is one of the reminders of why God permits suffering: All of us must struggle against our destructive nature and our wrong reasoning.

This was the central site for the planning and management of most of the Nazi war crimes. It’s located right here in the heart of Berlin.

This was headquarters for the most important institutions of Nazi terror: The Secret State Police Office, the Gestapo, the Reich SS leadership, and the Reich Security main office. Men like Heinrich Himmler and other key leaders had their offices here.

This is where war crimes and terror were initiated and then committed in Germany and in European occupied areas.

Today, it’s a museum—the Topography of Terror; also known as the “site of the perpetrators”—a center for the documentation of the Nazis.

God speaks to those who do evil: “Woe to those who plan wickedness and evil deeds upon their beds! In the light of the morning they did it, because they have power in their hands. (Micah 2:1-2 Micah 2:1-2 1 Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil on their beds! when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. 2 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
American King James Version×
, LEB).

This part of the Berlin Wall was constructed as the boundary between the American and Soviet zones of occupation. It ran along Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. And when it was completed, it stretched over 96 miles separating the people of East and West Berlin.

The Berlin wall here was never demolished and this is the longest surviving segment of the outer wall.

Now in many ways, it represents another era of terror and suffering—the Cold War and German division.

Now we recognize that God didn’t cause this evil to happen. It was a result of sin.

Sin causes suffering, but we have to be careful. Does that mean that the person who is suffering is always responsible for his or her own suffering? In this case, was it the Jews own fault for the holocaust?

Jesus Himself said: “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-5 Luke 13:2-5 2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
American King James Version×
).

This was certainly not the fault of the Jews. But sadly, sins have consequences that often affect not just the sinner, but those around as well. In a world that has turned its back on God, the evil one is pulling the strings, allowing trials and suffering to come on innocent victims and God’s people as well.

So, we should never judge the victims of suffering, but should be aware of our personal responsibility to repent and turn to God.

This is the basement of the Gestapo headquarters. It was badly damaged by bombing at the end of the war. It’s been excavated and now stands as an exhibit. A series of displays tell the story of events between 1933 and 1945 and their terrible effects.

This was where many political prisoners were tortured and executed.

This exhibit documents how these events affected the people: the persecution of the Jews and other ‘undesirables’; life in a city devastated by war; and the war crimes as well.

It stands as a memorial echoing the words of God: “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.”’ But they did not hear nor heed Me,” says the Lord. (Zechariah 1:4 Zechariah 1:4Be you not as your fathers, to whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus said the LORD of hosts; Turn you now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor listen to me, said the LORD.
American King James Version×
, NKJV).

Just having a glimpse of the horror and misery, you can’t help but ask: What have we learned?

This isn’t the world that God intended—then or now. God’s original creation didn’t contain these pains. The world God created was peaceful and beautiful. Food was easy to come by. There was no death. People were intended to have a close, personal relationship with God. But, God gave us free will. God gave us choices.

All too often men make the worst of choices.

These indoor exhibits focus on the organization and operations of the SS and Police, the power they held over the people and the abuses they committed. They made the choice to murder.

Making a choice goes back to the beginning. God gave Adam and Eve a choice of two trees. One represented the way to life and blessings. The other tree held the way to suffering, anguish and death. He explained the consequences of choosing either tree. He even commanded them not to make the wrong choice.

Just like we so often do, they made the wrong choice. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6 Genesis 3:6And 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 to her husband with her; and he did eat.
American King James Version×
).

God warned them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet, He didn’t keep Adam and Eve from making a wrong choice. God created them both in His own image. He gave them freedom to choose like He does.

Because God wants us to be like Him, He gave us the ability to choose what we do. Without making right choices, we can’t build righteous character. That’s the same character that He has. To build character, we need to make wise choices. We must choose between right and wrong, wisdom and foolishness, good and evil.

These exhibits, they are a stark reminder that all actions have consequences. Some consequences are good, some are destructive.

This wall points to the fact that most suffering can be traced to the source: our actions and decisions. In a world of freedom, some choices will lead to awful results. In a sense, it’s scientific: cause and effect; actions yield consequences. The Bible puts it this way in Galatians 6; “We reap what we sow” (Galatians 6:7 Galatians 6:7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
American King James Version×
).

Part of the reason for this memorial is to analyze suffering. When we do, we can learn a great deal—if we trace the outcomes back to the cause.

Proverbs 22:3 Proverbs 22:3A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
American King James Version×
states, “A prudent man forsees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”

When we look for the major cause of suffering, we shouldn’t blame God but rather look at ourselves. In one way or another—sin is the underlying cause for most suffering.

God Himself had a choice about how man would be created. He could have made us robots whose only course of action is to blindly carry out instructions. But, He chose to create us like Him, capable of making choices that are limited only by our knowledge and our character.

Now this requires that we learn right from wrong and that our character is developed by our decisions under God’s guidance and assistance.

The Bible reminds us that we are, “…His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before­hand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 Ephesians 2:10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
American King James Version×
).

And to “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and …put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22 Ephesians 4:22That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
American King James Version×
).

God is not finished with us. We are still His workmanship. He’s creating in us “righteousness and true holiness”—His character.

As we face trials and suffering, God can know how committed we are to His way of life. He has to find out if our character will endure hardship and suffering. Only then can He trust us with the powers that come with eternal life.

This memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe stands dedicated to those Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

It’s situated on 4.7 acres of land where Hitler’s chancellery used to stand. In fact, there are 2,700 of these concrete slabs that are all arranged in a sloping pattern. Of course, it stands as a memorial and a reminder of the character, how the character of the Jewish people was so sorely tested during the 1930s and the 1940s. It also stands as a reminder for all of us that life is not only for building character; it’s also for the testing of that character.

God even said something like that to Israel—that they would wander for: “…forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2 Deuteronomy 8:2And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or no.
American King James Version×
).

God even tries the faithfulness of Christians. They are tested to see how faithful they will remain in their commitment to God.

1 Peter 1:6 1 Peter 1:6Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
American King James Version×
says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”

Many scriptures point out the end results of trusting in God and enduring through difficulties. Like the refining process for precious metals, the heat of trials produces beautiful, godly character that can be achieved in no other way. The Bible tells us that even Jesus Christ learned through the things that He suffered (Hebrews 5:8-9 Hebrews 5:8-9 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;
American King James Version×
).

When we face difficult choices, God can see how committed to Him we are. Only when we obey Him under pressure is the depth of our character fully evident.

The apostle Paul tells us we should “glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4 Romans 5:3-4 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
American King James Version×
).

We can “cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for [all of us]” (1 Peter 5:7 1 Peter 5:7Casting all your care on him; for he cares for you.
American King James Version×
).

In Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
American King James Version×
, we’re told, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

These are fantastic promises that we can take before God.

When we are suffering, we can pray for the rest, the lightening of the load and the perspective that He promises.

He has all power and His thinking is far above our thinking, so He can make seemingly hopeless situations work out for our good in the long run.

World War II finally came to an end and the war was over. The suffering of that conflict was at last concluded. But when will all suffering end? In fact, will suffering truly come to an end? Yes!

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And 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.
American King James Version×
).

What a wonderful time that we can all look forward to!

From the beginning, God’s long-term goal has always been to prepare sons and daughters to be given eternal life as His glorified children.

But He first created man mortal, subject to suffering and death and gave us freedom of choice. Our choices have consequences that can be either good or bad. God wants us to learn how to choose what’s good and right. When God’s plan is complete, no suffering will remain!

In that final kingdom, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’” (Revelation 21:4-5 Revelation 21:4-5 4 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. 5 And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Remember that God only allows evil and suffering to exist for a time. He promises a better future for all those who trust in Him.

For Beyond Today I’m Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.

> World War II may have ended but our world continues to deal with unspeakable tragedies. We’ve prepared a special study aid to help you learn what the Bible says about this challenging topic.

Why Does God Allow Suffering? is our gift to you. Call us now for your free copy at 1-888-886-8632. Or go online at BeyondToday.tv. Why Does God Allow Suffering? will take you through a biblical study to help you understand why our world suffers from evil and unspeakable tragedy.

And when you do, we’ll also send you a free subscription to Beyond Today magazine. This special publication will help you make sense of often chaotic and confusing events in our world today.

Besides helping you prepare for the challenging future that lies ahead, Beyond Today magazine will also provide you with excellent insight into the many valuable and practical teachings of the Bible.

You can also get more Beyond Today on demand through our streaming app on Roku, Apple TV and more. The Beyond Today app brings new and previous episodes, live Bible studies and short videos right to your TV anytime, day or night. One bonus feature you will find in our streaming app is BT Daily . BT Daily is a short video feature where our BT hosts connect with you on a variety of topics.

For full access to everything Beyond Today has to offer, visit our website, BeyondToday.tv. You’ll find articles, videos and study aids covering a wide range of Bible topics like prophecy, doctrine and Christian living and pressing social issues like suicide, addictions and poverty. If you’d like to dig even deeper in what the Bible has to offer, check out our 12-lesson Bible Study Course available at our website. Go online to BeyondToday.tv and read all 12 lessons or have the lessons delivered right to your door.

And once again, to order your free copy of Why Does God Allow Suffering? and your free subscription to Beyond Today magazine call: 1-888-886-8632. Or, write to us at the address shown on your screen throughout the program [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].

[Steve Myers] Hi, I’m Steve Myers. I’m the pastor here at the United Church of God Cincinnati-East congregation. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. I’d like to welcome you to come and join us on this great spiritual journey.

We’re committed to growing in our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ as well as fellowshipping with each other.

If you’re looking for a home that encourages living what the Word of God really teaches, you’ve found the right place! We’re a family—a family of Bible believers committed to following Jesus Christ in everything we do. We’ve found God’s way is the best way to live.

We’re happy that you’re looking into what God is doing in our efforts to bring His message to the world. God is certainly pleased that you’re looking into knowing Him better. And we’re here to help! We would love to have you come and visit and worship with us. We’re looking forward to meeting you soon! Come and join us!

[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv . Please join us again next week on Beyond Today .

Comments

  • Ohluwatosin
    Thank you, I'm so honoured to be be here. God will replenish the wisdom of his Words Continually.
  • lauferrodney
    Thank you so much for this journey today! We learned a lot and appreciate your ongoing work to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God to come.
  • suzyqm
    Thank-you Mr. Myers, for this wonderful teaching!!!
  • suzyqm
    Thank-you Mr. Myers, for this wonderful teaching!!!
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