Why cancer? Why tsunamis? Why mass shootings? Why do bad things happen in the world?
The answers are as multifaceted as the questions…
#1 – God is Sovereign
God’s sovereignty is one of the most comforting truths taught in the Bible.
God has a plan for all things because He planned all things beforehand. As the supreme ruler and king, God possesses all authority and power (Isaiah 46:9-10). He has total control and complete assurance that everything He designs will happen (Isaiah 45:5-9). He has the right to be in charge of everything because He is in charge of everything (Psalm 135:6). Nothing that He has decided will ever fail to come to pass (Psalm 33:11).
The Bible teaches that God orchestrates the “good” and the “bad” for His wise and just purposes.
- He makes eyes that see and ears that hear, along with eyes that are blind and ears that are deaf (Exodus 4:11).
- He sometimes hardens hearts for His glory (Exodus 14:4).
- He kills and gives life (Deuteronomy 32:39).
- He makes some poor and others rich (1 Samuel 2:6-8).
- He gives abundance and famine (Psalm 105:16).
- He blesses some cities and destroys others (Amos 3:6).
- He gives health to some and suffering to others (2 Samuel 12:15; 1 Peter 4:19).
- He gives and takes away (Job 1:21; 2:7-10; 42:11).
#2 – Human Sin Brought Death and Suffering
In order to better understand the world’s evil and suffering, we must not overlook our sin and responsibility. While God governs all things according to His eternal wisdom, we are culpable… not God. All of creation groans due to the curse of our sin (Romans 8:23).
Some ask, “If God can do anything, why can’t He dissolve all evil and suffering?” This is an ironic question, for we cannot blame God for the world’s suffering while daily insisting on our own personal freedom to sin against Him.
Even today, God doesn’t abridge the accountability of moral, intelligent creatures (1 Peter 1:17). Instead of asking why God allows suffering in the world, perhaps a better question is to ask why God grants any of us mercy, a sunny day, a healthy life, a drink of water, or a breath of fresh air.Instead of asking why God allows suffering in the world, perhaps a better question is to ask why God grants any of us mercy, a sunny day, a healthy life, a drink of water, or a breath of fresh air. Click To Tweet
#3 – Satan is Behind Much Suffering
The purposes of Satan are infinitely inferior to the purposes of God; however, Satan is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8). Just as he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1), he also tempts us (Matthew 13:39; Ephesians 6:11).
In John 10:10, Jesus portrays Satan as a thief, a murder, a destroyer, and a liar. Just as Satan used his power to control natural and human forces to destroy Job’s family and possessions (Job 1-2), the same possibilities abound today.
While Christians must be careful of blaming Satan for flat tires, stalled cars, or broken washing machines… a biblical worldview portrays Satan as one who is bent on the destruction of God’s image-bearers—all human beings.
#4 – God Purifies His People Through Pain
As the army has a purifying goal for boot camp, God has a greater purpose for the suffering He orchestrates for His people…
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. (Hebrews 12:5-6)
The believers to whom the book of Hebrews was written were not being punished for past sins, but where being trained through intense hardship for the road ahead, namely a lifetime of persevering in Jesus. Their suffering would instill within them a submission to God, a separation from sin, and a life filled with spiritual fruit (Hebrews 12:9-11).
God never promised an easy life to His children, but He did promise that all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:23-39). Such was the case with Joseph (Genesis 50:20) and Job (42:12-13).
For Job suffering was not the torture of the executioner’s whip but the pain of the surgeon’s scalpel. God was the one who initially brought up Job’s name to Satan with the goal of proving the supernatural, enduring quality of Job’s faith (Job 13:15; Rom. 8:31-39). Job boldly declared, “He knows the way I take. When He has tried me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
God never promised an easy life to His children, but He did promise that all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:23-39).God never promised an easy life to His children, but He did promise that all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:23-39). Click To Tweet
#5 – God Uses Suffering to Draw People to Himself
The Bible is chockfull of examples of Christian suffering, but what about the many non-believers in the world? Do any other purposes exist for their suffering beyond the curse of sin found in Genesis 3? Indeed. God often uses suffering to draw men and women to saving faith.
- In a world of death and disappointment, people realized their inherent sinfulness and began to call on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26).
- Abraham was called to faith under difficult circumstances (Genesis 11:27-28; 12:1-9; 15:1-6; Romans 4:1-3).
- Naaman was confronted with the healing power of God through disease (2 Kings 5:1-14).
- King Nebuchadnezzar was given a season of madness before recognizing God’s authority (Daniel 4:28-36).
- Paralysis led to a man’s finding Jesus and salvation (Matthew 9:1-8), just as an issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34) and blindness led to others finding the same (John 9:1-41).
- God ordained a man to be possessed by demons, only so He could later heal him and receive great glory (Luke 8:26-39).
- Much hardship surrounded Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion (Acts 9:1-9; cf. 7:58).
- The sickness of Aeneas led to local residents turning to the Lord (Acts 9:32-35).
- Many believed as the result of Dorcas’ resurrection (Acts 9:36-42), but it was her death that made the miracle possible.
Though hardship is not necessary for God to call someone to faith, suffering seems linked to the necessary humbling process for some to be saved (Luke 14:11).Though hardship is not necessary for God to call someone to faith, suffering seems linked to the necessary humbling process for some to be saved (Luke 14:11). Click To Tweet
#6 – Persecution Creates its Own Turmoil
Much suffering exists today because of some who reject the gospel. Jesus warned His followers that such would be the case (Matthew 10:22), as did Paul (1 Timothy 1:8-14) who cautioned that suffering is often an evidence of godly living in a pagan culture (2 Timothy 3:12). Since its inception, the church has suffered for proclaiming the gospel (1 Peter 3:13-17).
#7 – Suffering Creates an Appetite for the Future
As most stars cannot be seen by the naked eye without the backdrop of the night sky, most of heaven’s glories will not be appreciated without the backdrop of earthly suffering. God seems to carve out space for eternal glory with the knife of earthly affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17). Jesus brought peace to troubled hearts by pointing to eternal reward (John 14:1-3).
Are you weighed down by suffering? Remember that God’s story isn’t over. Just as you wouldn’t read or watch The Phantom of the Opera without its conclusion, I pray you’ll remember the end God has promised for those who will put their faith in Him.
One day, hopefully sooner than later, God will make all things new: a renewed heaven and a renewed earth (Revelation 21-22). This is why Jesus came. This is why Jesus died and arose again. This is why Jesus is coming again.
Commit your life to Him!
Are you weighed down by suffering? Remember that God’s story isn’t over.Are you weighed down by suffering? Remember that God’s story isn’t over. Click To Tweet
Matt Friend, a Charleston native and tenth generation West Virginian, graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has served in pastoral ministry since 2002 and at Bible Center Church since March 1, 2016 (as our sixth Lead Pastor). He and Sarah (his high school sweetheart and wife) are raising two teenage daughters, Katie and Riley, and one son, Kadyn. Together, they are advocates for adoption and all things Charleston. In his free time, he enjoys reading, running, kayaking, and spending time with his family and two dogs, Queso and Sabi.
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