Why Does God Allow Suffering?
by Peter Salemi
Why does God allow events like the Connecticut, Columbine and Colorado shootings? If there is a God why is there wars, famines, sicknesses and diseases? Is there an answer to that Question? The Bible provides that Answer!
The Tragedies we see and read in the news everyday makes many people wonder, if there is a God? And if there is, where is he when it hurts? Why do we suffer the way we do? Why does God allow the slaughter of innocent children, woman, and men by a deranged gunmen in schools and theatres? We must remember, these people were not alone in their suffering. At the same time of these shootings, children in impoverished nations around the world suffer from malnutrition disease and death. Millions of people from Japan to Africa suffer from wars, tortures, slavery, accidents, and death AT THE SAME TIME AS THESE KILLINGS IN THE UNITED STATES!
British author and historian Paul Johnson writes of one of mankind's greatest theological dilemmas in his book The Quest for God, stating, "I suspect that the problem of evil drives more thoughtful people away from religion than any other difficulty" (1996, p. 61).
From the Beginning
To find the answer we must go to the beginning, and find out why this world is the way it is! God created our first parents in his image (Gen 1:26). God also gave them a precious gift, the GIFT OF CHOICE! We are free moral agents! If God did not give us this precious gift, we would be no more than robots, with our behaviour either being preprogrammed, and unchangeable, or dictated in all its details by an outside force such as God himself. But God does not want that. God wants us to choose to obey him with all of our hearts. "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deuteronomy 6:5). God set forth his laws for us to obey and it has to be our choice. Again God says, "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;...In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it....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 thou and thy seed may live: " (Deut 30:15-16, 19).
In the garden of Eden God set two trees before Adam and Eve, and gave them a choice. Here God wanted man to make the choice to choose life, or the other choice, the knowledge of Good and evil to discover for themselves. "...the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil...And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen 2:9, 16-17). This is basically what God told Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19. As the book of Revelation explains, the tree of life symbolized obedience to God that would ultimately lead to eternal life (Revelation 2:7; 22:1-2). The other tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—represented rejection of God's direction by determining good and evil for oneself. This choice would eventually lead to death. The knowledge of Good and evil was a "desired to make one wise" (Gen 3:6), but without God. Our way, not God's, because this way lead to death, as Solomon wrote, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12).
Afterward, taking of the fruit they realized what they have done, "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." (Gen 3:7). Paul said we all have the sense of right and wrong by nature in our hearts, and our own hearts condemn us when we sin, see Romans 2:14-15. They knew they sinned and hid themselves from God, (Gen 3:9).
Now God left them to their own judgment which was flawed now that they have sinned, and they had to make their own way in a difficult world (Gen 3:22-24). God also showed them that there were consequences to their actions. As a result of sin, these things were going to take place, now that creation was wrecked by sin. God said, "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
"Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen 3:16-19). Hardship, a dangerous planet, since the ground was cursed, and death would come to the world, because man had chosen the road without God!
There is also one more element that is the cause of much of the misery in this world. A rebellious being, and powerful spirit called Satan the Devil. Notice, the devil, tempted Eve, to eat. He deceived Eve, lying to her saying that she would be like God to know good and evil, and that they wont die (Gen 3:1-5). Taking away the consequences for sin. Satan is called "the prince of the power of the air, " (Ephesians 2:2). As broadcasting his evil influence to those who will receive it. He throws "fiery darts" (Ephesians 6:16) at humans meaning "By the 'fiery darts of the wicked,' Paul here refers, probably, to the temptations of the great adversary, which are like fiery darts; or those furious suggestions of evil, and excitements to sin, which he may throw into the mind like fiery darts. They are - blasphemous thoughts, unbelief, sudden temptation to do wrong, or thoughts that wound and torment the soul. In regard to them, we may observe:
(1) that they come suddenly, like arrows sped from a bow;
(2) they come from unexpected quarters, like arrows shot suddenly from an enemy in ambush;
(3) they pierce, and penetrate, and torment the soul, as arrows would that are on fire;
(4) they set the soul on fire, and enkindle the worst passions, as fiery darts do a ship or camp against which they are sent." (Barnes Notes).
The Bible says Satan is like a "roaring lion" seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He also "deceives the whole world" (Rev 12:9). He also called the "god of this world [age]" (2 Corith 4:4). Jesus called him the "prince of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The "world" in these passage means this "age" the age of man, evil and Satan. Jesus plainly said, "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil [one].
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (John 17:14-16). Jesus and his followers were not of this world because they did not follow the rest of society, Satan's way, his religious systems, his education, his government. Through these deceptions the whole world is held captive, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." (Acts 10:38).
The temptations of the devil, his wicked influence, and us yielding to that influence, along with our sinful nature and free choice whether to obey God or not, has created the world in which you see today!
People tend to blame the leader of a nation for all its ills. When the economy goes bad people tend to blame the President or Prime Minister. He is the guy you see! When there is suffering, who is the person people blame? God! He is the guy in charge therefore its his fault! Yet the Bible says this is Satan's world! God has hands off this world! If you are looking for the leader to blame for all of these ills, its SATAN THE DEVIL, HE RULES, NOT GOD!
"In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Corinth 4:4).
In Matthew 4 we read of the time when Jesus was tempted by the Devil. Notice what Satan says, "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
"And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8-9). The Devil said all the kingdoms of the world he had the power to give to Christ, because he is the ruler of this world, and Jesus never refuted that claim! It is the Devil that gives the Beast, "...his power, and his seat, and great authority." (Rev 13:2).
What is Satan doing on this earth right now? God asked Satan when he presented himself before God, he said, "Whence comest thou?" (Job 1:7). Satan answered God and said, "From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." The meaning of this verse actually means, "Schultens interprets the word of Satan going through the earth with great force and violence, whipping and scourging miserable mortals." (Gill's Commentary). He, as Peter said, is like a roaring lion to devour. In this scene with Job he wanted to wreak havoc with Job but God protected him, (Job 1:10). Does God intervene? The question will be answered later in the article. So this is what Satan is doing right now. This is what we are subject to. It's amazing to me that people tend to blame God for all this violence and havoc, because he's the guy you see, he's the guy everyone goes to with their problems, and Satan goes undetected!
As I said, the Bible says God has hands off this world. Isaiah 59 says, "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:" (v.1). God can intervene, and is willing to intervene in the lives of people, but notice the next verse, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (v.2). We don't want to obey or listen to God. We want God out of lives and out of our business, until we get into trouble then we scream "Oh God save me!" The rest of this chapter shows the terrible sins that we have committed, and it says that we are, "departing away from our God" (v.13).
Another scripture is in Deuteronomy 32. Here God gives a prophecy through Moses about Israel being blessed. Then God says, "But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation." (v.15). Israel departs from God, turn their backs on him and go their own way. God then says, "And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith." (v.20). You see, God does not intervene when we turn our backs on him and tell him we want to go our own way! We want to go our own way and God is letting us! This is why God allows human suffering because we have turned our backs on God, and so God says alright, have your own Governments, education, military, and religions, and we have to live with the consequences! Coupled with that, falling prey to the ruler of this evil world Satan the devil! "the whole world is under the rule of the Evil One." (1 John 5:19 GNB). When all we have to do is "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). But we don't submit to God and resist the devil, we instead resist God, and submit to the devil!
How Did Satan Come to Rule the Earth?
How did the devil received the throne of this earth and come to rule it? He is now called Satan meaning "adversary." But before that, he was called "Lucifer" meaning the "morning star," or a bringer of light. Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 reveal the fall of Lucifer, and he became the "Adversary" or Satan. Ezekiel reveals what happened, "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
"Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
"Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire." (Ezekiel 28:12, 13-14). Those who are anointed are kings. God appointed Lucifer head over this earth. Then, "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee." (v.15). What was Lucifer's sin? Ezekiel says in verse 17 because of his beauty his "heart was lifted up." Pride was his sin, and Isaiah 14 says, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning...For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north...I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." (vv.12, 13, 14). Notice Satan has a throne, and wanted to take over the rule of all the angels, called "stars" and be "like the most high." Satan wants to be worshipped as God. He wants absolute power. This is why he told Christ to bow down and worship him, and Jesus of course refused (Matthew 4). Pride was his sin. He thought because he was anointed and perfect and beautiful, he could be worshipped and be like God.
So, after Satan's fall from grace, God created man, to take over the earth from Satan the Devil, but man failed that test as we read in Genesis 3. Then man needed redemption, so God provided man with a redeemer Jesus Christ, the second Adam. 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47 says that Jesus is the second Adam, and he came to redeem man, and to take the throne away from Satan the Devil.
Matthew the 4th chapter reveals the temptation of the second Adam, Jesus, being tempted by the Devil, as the first Adam was tempted. But Jesus passed the test, Jesus is now qualified to knock Satan off his throne whenever the Father decides to send him back, and rule on this earth. Jesus himself said Satan has a throne, "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is:" (Rev 2:13). The word "seat" in the Greek is "Thronos" (Strong's# 2362) meaning a "Throne."
Preventative Law Breaking
Why doesn't God interfere when a madman goes in to a school and shoot 20 children and 6 teachers? Why doesn't God step in and prevent crime, and wars and disease and sickness before they start. Why doesn't God interfere in the lives of humans?
Many times people are INCREDULOUS that God "permits" other men to act in satanic, evil fashion—failing to realize that God DOES NOT DEAL IN PREVENTIVE LAW!
This is a vitally important point!
It is paramount in understanding WHY God allows human tragedy, human suffering or human failure!
Think for a moment! Do the Ten Commandments PREVENT SIN? No, they only point out WHAT IT IS! They tell men: DO NOT SIN!
God shows elsewhere (Romans 6:23) that the wages of sin is death, death for all eternity, death from which there is no resurrection! He says (Romans 3:23) that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Could anything be clearer, concerning the LACK OF intervention in His creation, the attitude of letting MAN make the decisions, the concept of free moral agency? Call it a "hands off" policy, if you will!
God says, "DON'T SIN!"
He says, "CHOOSE LIFE!"
He urges men NOT to sin, and then shows that all have sinned! He shows, then, that HE HAS NOT PREVENTED man from sinning! The law exists—immutable, unchangeable and eternal. But the law of God is not being enforced by unseen policemen. There are no arrests made for breaking it, only for breaking the laws of man, if and when some of man's laws happen, albeit by accident, to overlap the laws of God.
No attorney files charges against you for lusting, for having another god in place of the real God, for lying, stealing or Sabbath-breaking. No judge passes sentence on you to punish you for these sins, which God says are worthy of the death sentence!
Time and Chance
King Solomon observing the ways of men, the world the way it works said, "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Eccl 9:11). This is what the world is subject to, time and chance and circumstance. As I have said, God has hands off this world, and allowing men to go their own way.
Another example of this is in the Luke the 13th chapter. Jesus was asked, "There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
"And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?" (Luke 13:1-2). Jesus was asked by some people, who had ideas of mysterious, selective punishment. Again in verse 4, "Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them. Do you suppose they were sinners above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem?" Some had the idea they must have been guilty of greater sin and specially singled out for God's wrath! Both times Jesus said, "I tell you, Nay" (vv.3, 5). He said, in effect, it was simply a matter of "time, and chance, and circumstance." A mere accident. Ancient mortar finally loosened from its hundreds of years' exposure to the wind and rain and a section of tower wall came crashing down on a group of eighteen men! This tragedy was well known, a mass death. The people had come to Jesus plainly puzzled over the deep spiritual questions about these two cases of mass death—one plain murder and the other sheer chance. Obviously, since Jesus so strongly addresses the questions of "sinners above all else," the people had supposed this was the case. They were assuming God was RIGHT THERE. They assumed these men were going about their daily lives with their own concepts, their own values and standards, their own personal relationships with "God," and could not imagine why that "God" was not INSTANTLY there to PREVENT such terrible tragedies!
Jesus showed God had NOTHING TO DO WITH IT WHATSOEVER!
God was not even IN the picture—for He had not been INVITED in! No, these men were not "sinners above all else"; they were sinners JUST LIKE everybody else! They didn't think of themselves as "sinners," for most human beings have trouble living with too much of a guilt complex. They, like most of us, probably rationalize around in their minds to the point they felt like reasonably "good people." These people that died in these tragedies are just "out there" subject to time chance and circumstance. This scripture can be applied to the events of Columbine, Newtown, and Colorado as well. God was not in the picture. He had nothing to do with it. It was time chance and circumstance!
"but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." (God's Intervention)
In these episodes Jesus spoke of, he included one detail for God's intervention into human affairs, our daily lives. He said, ""but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3, 5). Repentance means stop going your way, and start going God's way. His law, his righteousness. As he said in Isaiah 59, "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
"But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." (59:1-2). Millions have invited God OUT of their lives through their own free choice, and God is cooperating with them—showing it is our own way of life, our "sins and iniquities" (which we call "good") that have separated us from God. We are "without God" in the world, in spite of our form of religion! And, except we repent, except we break down that barrier that separates us from God, except we establish a daily connection with HIM, "you shall all likewise perish." He means we are just "out there," in our technological world of machines which sometimes betrays us, taking our chances APART from any direct interference from God one way or the other!
Jesus told his disciples about God's intervention in their lives and said, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
"If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John 14:13-14). Jesus confirms the fact that God does intervene in our lives. But the next verse adds a condition, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (v.15). Notice the condition, he said, "IF" you love him, and keep the commandments of God. Jesus said, many will come in his name and do many miracles, and do many wonderful works in his name, and Jesus said, "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:23). And How do we know God? By keeping his commandments (1 John 2:3). If we knock down the barrier that separates us from God, and do the things that are pleasing in his sight God will intervene in our lives, and we will ride the "high places of the earth" (Isaiah 58:14). Job was protected by God because Job was righteous and obeyed God, so God was part of his life and blessed him.
God promises to be a daily PART of our lives if we establish that connection! If we approach HIM. If we seek Him!
God says, "I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people which walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts. A people that provoke me to anger continually to my face ... that say, 'Stand over there by yourself' to me and, 'Come not near me"' (Isaiah 65:105 paraphrased).
He says, "Seek ye the Eternal while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake HIS WAY, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Eternal, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon!" (Isaiah 55:6,7).
Those poor people that were involved in those shootings weren't being punished. They weren't sinners above all else; they were good people, according to our own concepts of goodness. But God was not involved in their terrible loss any more than He was involved in the mass deaths during Jesus' day, or in the wars and sufferings of man from the first murder until now.
YOU can have God's tender mercies; YOU can have His DAILY intervention in your life; you can have the very mind and presence of Jesus Christ living His life over again within you, if you will do what Jesus asks!
"REPENT," He says, "COME UNTO ME," and says His yoke is easy and His burden light! He says He will draw all men unto Him and that He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should have eternal life!"
YOUR life can have a happy ending, from now on, if you are willing to
discover the REAL Jesus Christ, willing to find out what is sin and to
sin, calling out to God to forgive you and to wash away your sins under the shed
blood of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Then you will always know your God
is near; you will know you need Him all the time, every day! He has already made
it plain He wants You in His Kingdom, or you wouldn't be on this earth in the
It is you choice—your decision.