Well my dear friends. It has been a wonderful summer! I promised some time ago that I would write a piece on: “Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?” So here it finally is.
To answer this question, we need to first look at the question why is there death and suffering in the FIRST place? If God is all loving and just, why did He create a world where death and suffering exists? To answer this, we need to step all the way back to the beginning of creation. Let’s look at Genesis 1:1-30. This scripture is an account of the creation of the world and all the living creatures including man that God made. It tells of God forming the earth, the sky, the plants, the animals, and finally man. Notice all through the first chapter of Genesis it mentions that God saw that everything He created “was good”. Finally, after having created everything, including man and animals, verse 31 says “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.” God was obviously pleased with His creation up to this point.
Now, after creating all the animals of the earth and after creating and blessing man, notice what God says to both man and the animals in verses 29 & 30 (Genesis 1:29-30). He tells them: “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”
What?!! Man and animals were originally created to be vegetarians? All the animals were created to eat plants for food ?!! Yes, the bible tells us that is how it was originally meant to be. God did not intend for animals to eat each other. God’s intent for this earth was peace even among the animals. What do you mean you ask? Look at the way animals behave today. Sharks rip their prey apart and eat them alive. Lions break the necks of animals by crushing their necks with their powerful jaws and then disembowel and eat them. Mosquitos drill into our flesh and suck our blood and pass viruses on to us. The world is full of animals being ripped apart by other animals and people killing and eating animals. Do you think this was the way God intended the earth to be? When He created the animals and the earth and then proclaimed in verse 31 that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. Can we really assume that God intended for animals to rip the insides out of each other? Of course he did not. We saw in verse 30 that He gave green plants for the animals to eat. So what caused the change?
Lets jump ahead to Genesis 2. It is here in verse 16 that God tells Adam and Eve that if they eat of the forbidden fruit they will surely die. Now look at Genesis 3. Here they had eaten of the fruit and what did God say? Look at verse 17,
“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”
The earth and everything in it is under a curse from God. Friends, this radically changed everything on earth. It also radically changed man. What did He tell Adam would happen if they ate of the forbidden fruit? They would what? They would surely “die”. When man disobeyed and choose his own desires over God’s commands he effectively took God off the throne and put himself there instead. When man disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden sin entered this world and infested it. Because of this, God cursed the world and everything in it. That is why animals behave as they do and that is why man behaves as sinfully as he does. We were created by God to live in a world without violence, death and suffering but sin changed everything. So we see that this world, as Ken Hamm with Answers in Genesis web site so eloquently puts it, is really a “broken” world. We live in a world “broken’ by sin. We tell our children, and even we Christians are guilty of this, that this is a beautiful world that God has made, and indeed, there is a remnant of beauty left, but it is a world badly marred by sin.
That is why the Lord tells us in 1 John 2:15-17 :
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.”
We are told NOT to love this world. Why would we not love this world if, as everyone says, it is a world God made for us to enjoy? Because even though God made it, the world is contaminated by sin and is under a curse. Did you know that death itself is an enemy of God and on judgment day it will be thrown into the lake of fire also? Check out Revelation 20:13-15 Death also came because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17).
So now we know why there is death and suffering in the world. The next qustion is why does God allow it? And, adding to this thought, if God is sovereign and all knowing, why did He not foresee this all happening? A prime example (though not the only one) of the answer to this question can be found in the book of Job.
Let’s look at Job. The bible says in Job 1:1-5: “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.”
Here was a “good” man who loved God. He was a man who was wealthy and prosperous and a man who was truly well respected by everyone even God. In other words, Job was not a person who “deserved” to suffer for any wrongs he had done. However, Job, learned that God’s ways are far above our ways and although we live here on this finite rock of a world there are spiritual worlds that we know nothing of but God does. Consider Job 1:6-12:
“6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”
Here is an amazing account of Satan coming before God and for whatever reason, arguing with God about Job. In the end, and here is the key folks, for a reason we are not aware of, the Lord agreed to allow Satan to test Job. Even though Job was blameless before the Lord (verse 8), Satan was allowed to do what he wanted to Job within the boundaries of the Lord’s permission. Reading through the book you will see that Satan destroyed Job’s family, took away his wealth, and destroyed his health. Job was left in ruins sitting in dust and ashes on the verge of death. His “friends” saw what happened to Job and came and urged him to repent of his sins for they thought that somehow what had happened to him must have been the result of some sin in his life. The bulk of the book details the dialog that goes back and forth between Job and his friends about this issue. Finally God intervenes and chastizes them all for arguing about things they know nothing about. In Job 38:2 the Lord says to Job: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”. You see, neither Job nor his friends knew why these things had happened at all. In his friend’s minds, there must have been logical reason for it. But God’s ways are far above our ways and we are not privy to what happens in the heavenly realms. We ultimately must acknowledge that the Lord has reasons for allowing bad things to happen to us just as He did to Job. At the end of the book when Job tried to justify himself to God, the Lord answered him by asking him if he was there when the Lord made the heavens and the earth? Or did Job know the Laws of Heaven? Did he mark off the earth’s dimensions? Was it he that created it all? In other words who was Job to question God for doing the things he did? In other words did we create it all or did God? Who is the ruler of heaven and earth? is it us or God? Of course we know it is He. In the end Job responds to God in verses 42:1-6:
Then Job replied to the LORD :
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
You see friends, just as Job found out, we must also acknowledge that there are reasons for why God allows undesirable things to happen in our lives. Reasons for which we are not always aware of. But we must also acknowledge that He knows what is best for us, not ourselves. He is soveriegn and there are things which happen in the heavenly realms that we are not a part of.
Two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth and died on a cross to atone for our sins so that if we might repent of our sins and believe on Him we will be saved. Did anyone at that time really understand what was happening? No, not even the disciples understood the full magnitude of what He did until after His death. They could not for the life of them understand why their long awaited Messiah had to die. But God had His reasons didn’t He? It was only later that they finally understood. And it is the same for us today, we do not understand because God’s ways are so much higher then our ways. Someday we will understand, until then, we must be like Job and repent before the Lord for putting ourselves on the throne of our lives and thinking that we should be above the suffering others go through. The Lord has a reason for what He allows and we must trust in Him to see us through.
The bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12:
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I stopped those childish ways.12 It is the same with us. Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me.”
Someday when we are with the Lord in heaven we will see and understand it all clearly. As Paul Harvey used to say at the end of his broadcasts: “now you know the rest of the story”