Why doesn’t God stop the trouble?
Something is wrong with our world. Disease and death come as uninvited guests to wreck our comfort zones and leave us questioning. We have grown tired of false hopes and promises, whether made by politicians, doctors, bosses or lovers. Most of us are conscious that there is a God, but why doesn’t He act to stop it all? The Bible tells us that He is all powerful and altogether loving, so we ask why He does not intervene. Let’s ask some questions and try and find some answers.
Has the world always been a place of suffering?
We know from the Bible that when God created the world, everything was ‘very good’. There was no suffering, sin, sorrow or death. The world as it was became the world as it is after a deliberate act of rebellion against God. As a result creation was wrecked and ruined. Death and corruption entered all that God had made.
Does that mean that if someone is suffering he must have done something bad?
Before there was sin, there was no suffering, and sometimes when we do wrong today there are immediate consequences. Smoke cigarettes and it will ruin your lungs; drink too much alcohol and it will wreck your liver. But suffering is not necessarily a direct result of sin. Jesus said about a man born blind that this wasn’t the result of his sin or his parents’ sin, but that God would bring great good even from the disability. On another occasion, Jesus spoke about an incident where a tower had collapsed and killed eighteen people, and a dreadful time when a group of worshippers had been martyred by Pontius Pilate. Jesus then taught that the lesson to learn is that unless we turn to God and trust Him, we also will perish.
Isn’t suffering pointless?
God can bring good even from bad circumstances. He is never taken by surprise, for He knows all things: past, present and future. God is love … always! In 1911 there was a dreadful mining disaster in Durham. In the memorial service in the packed Cathedral, the then Bishop used a tapestry to illustrate his message. Showing the underneath there was a tangled mess of embroidery thread that seemed meaningless. Then Bishop Moule turned over the tapestry to reveal, intricately woven, the words, ‘GOD IS LOVE’. From our position life can seem deeply confusing, but God always works in love. He can bring good from even the worst situations of life. Though we can never be glib, people who know God in a personal way have the assurance that God never wastes any tears, or toil, or pain. He uses everything, even suffering, in His great plan and purpose.
Could it be that when disasters happen, God is punishing people?
We know from the Bible that God does judge nations and people. God hates the wickedness that we so easily take for granted. It may be that suffering can bring a person or a nation to repent, turn away from their sin and turn back to God. It is not for human beings, though, to say that such and such an incident is God’s judgement. He knows, but we do not!
Why did God allow Jesus to suffer?
Jesus had done no wrong at all. He went about doing good. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry and turned around messed up lives. And yet people crucified Him. Jesus was cut off from His Father God, as He paid the penalty for our sin. The Bible says: ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to His own way, but the Lord has laid on Him [Jesus] the sin of us all’. ‘Jesus was wounded for our transgressions’ so that through all His suffering, God could offer forgiveness to people like you and me. He died so that we could be reconciled to God. There was no other way whereby the judgement of God against sin and the love of God for us could be satisfied.
Will there ever be justice?
We see, too, from Jesus, that death is not the end. He died on the cross, was buried, and then three days later rose from the dead. He had repeatedly spoken of life after death, of heaven and hell. Then He demonstrated the truth of this by rising from the dead. In Psalm 73, written centuries before Jesus was born, the writer found the whole issue of suffering, and the fact that ‘good’ people often suffer most, led him to question his deep faith. That was until he began to see things from God’s perspective and from eternity’s point of view. Then he realised that God will eventually right the wrongs, and justice will rule in every situation.
Can anyone really explain why some people suffer and others seem to be spared?
As human beings, we cannot understand why some have such a tough time, but others just sail through life. There are things we just do not understand. Why does a young child die? Why is a young mother taken? Why a tsunami? Why are some people killed or maimed as a result of terrorism and not others? This side of eternity will never provide the answers to individual stories of suffering, but we can rest in the character of God. He has revealed so much about Himself: His love, His justice, His holiness, and His coming to earth in the Lord Jesus. He has revealed that we can come to know Him in a personal way, and that He knows what He is doing in our lives. He has not lost control of our world.
Why do some people get away with great wickedness?
So much suffering in the world has been caused by tyrants, terrorists, dictators and rulers. The bloodshed and tears are heart-rending. However, we are assured in the Bible that every individual, including kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers will one day stand before God in judgement. They will have to give account for all that they have said and done. Justice will be served, and those who have rejected God will mourn over all that they did.
Will the world always be a place of suffering?
The Bible makes clear that the world as it is, will one day be destroyed and God will make a new heaven and a new earth: a place where the lion will lie down with the lamb, where swords will be beaten into ploughs, where nations will speak peace to other nations.
Not everyone will enjoy this new reign though. For those who have rejected God’s way of forgiveness, and reconciliation to Himself, there will be a place of endless suffering. Jesus lovingly warned about the reality of hell for those who reject Him. Yet God desires that no-one should perish, but that all should truly repent and believe.
What should be my response to suffering?
God wants us to turn from what is wrong, and ask the once-crucified, but now-risen Jesus to forgive us, and live within us as Lord and Saviour. He promises that He will take us through life, through death and then to be with Him forever in heaven. Heaven is not a reward; it is a gift for those who will receive Jesus into their lives.
Roger Carswell is a member of the Association of Evangelists.