Why Suffering?

Why Suffering?

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

A famous author pointedly asked: “If God is infinitely good, and infinitely powerful too, why should evil exist at all?” That question is one we all want answered.

God reveals His purpose for permitting misery during the present era, when we must struggle against our destructive nature and reasoning. It is 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.

What major choices did our first parents face?

“The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9 Genesis 2:9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
American King James Version×
).

The first book of the Bible talks about two trees God created. One represented the way to life and abundant blessings, the other the way to suffering, anguish and death. He gave Adam and Eve a choice of the two trees. But He did not leave our first parents in the dark. He explained the consequences of the choices they could make and even commanded them not to make the wrong one (Genesis 2:15-17 Genesis 2:15-17 15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
American King James Version×
; compare Genesis 3:3 Genesis 3:3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.
American King James Version×
).

What all-important decision did Adam and Eve make?

“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×
).

Although man’s Creator had clearly warned the first man not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He did not prevent Adam and Eve from making a wrong choice. God had created them both in His own image and gave them freedom to choose.

God is the epitome of holy, righteous character. He has chosen always to do what is wise and good. No power greater than He forces Him to be righteous. Righteousness has always been and always will be His way of life. His nature is love, the highest expression of His perfect character (1 John 4:8-16 1 John 4:8-16 8 He that loves not knows not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.
American King James Version×
).

Because God wants us to be like Him, He did not make us as automatons. If He had done so, we could not build righteous character, the same character He has. He could not fashion us into His spiritual image. To build character, we must evaluate our choices and recognize their consequences. We must choose between right and wrong, wisdom and foolishness, carelessness and vigilance.

What happens when we make wrong choices?

“He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow . . .” (Proverbs 22:8 Proverbs 22:8He that sows iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.
American King James Version×
).

Paul explained the principle of reaping what one sows in Galatians 6:7-8 Galatians 6:7-8 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
American King James Version×
. The New International Version’s rendering of this verse is especially clear: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

The biblical record shows that God rarely interferes with man’s free ability to make choices. We find instances in the Bible in which God temporarily intervened to inhibit either a nation’s or an individual’s freedom to choose a course of action—in some cases to protect His servants, in others to fulfill prophecy.

On one occasion He caused King Saul to involuntary “prophesy” to protect His servant David. But soon Saul returned to his old ways.

God also intervened to protect Abraham’s wife, Sarah, from the illicit intentions of a king. God has frequently intervened in human affairs to assist or protect His faithful servants.

In general, God’s purpose is best served by His giving us freedom of choice—letting matters take their own course, even if our hasty and wrongheaded decisions sometimes bring on us enormous sufferings. Otherwise we would not learn the importance of righteous character, nor would we fully grasp the terrible consequences of sinful behavior.

For example, God does not prevent people from overindulging in alcohol. He does not take away their freedom of choice, nor does He prevent them from suffering the consequences of their choices. But, if an abuser of alcohol should earnestly seek spiritual power and help from God to combat his weakness, God is willing, through the intervention of Jesus Christ, to help him (Hebrews 2:16-18 Hebrews 2:16-18 16 For truly he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.
American King James Version×
; Hebrews 4:14-16 Hebrews 4:14-16 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version×
). God’s ears are always open to the prayers of people who sincerely desire to obey His commands (1 Peter 3:12 1 Peter 3:12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
American King James Version×
).