HAVE YOU WONDERED? The problem of suffering and evil

Russ Whitten
Russ Whitten

“How can an all-powerful, all-loving God allow so much suffering and evil in the world?” In this series of articles, I would like to address this important question from a biblical perspective. Last time, I pointed out three Biblical truths about suffering.

1. Suffering can develop our character and lead us to maturity.

2. Suffering helps us realize that we need God.

3. Our suffering can help us understand the suffering of others.

In this article, I would like to present three more truths about suffering from a Christian perspective.

4. Sometimes we suffer because of personal sin.

“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 …” (Galatians 6:7-8).

We must not overlook the fact that many of our wounds are self inflicted. A majority of the suffering in our world is directly caused by humans doing things that God commanded us not to do. The Bible is also clear that some suffering is due to God’s discipline (see Hebrews 12:5-11; Deuteronomy 28:15; Psalms 32:3-5; 38:1-8; 1 Corinthians 11:30; Psalm 107:17). However, it is important to point out that Jesus rejected the idea that there is always a necessary direct correlation between our personal sin and our suffering (see John 9:1-3; Luke 13:1-5).

5. God never intended this world to be our ultimate home.

Suffering, says Joni Eareckson Tada, reminds us that we should never get too comfortable in this fallen world, which is destined for destruction and decay. She writes:

“Earth’s pain keeps crushing our hopes, reminding us that this world can never satisfy; only heaven can. … Suffering keeps swelling our feet so that earth’s shoes won’t fit.”

In Hebre 11, after recording a litany of faithful sufferers, the writer says this:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. … Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

To those who are suffering, the apostle Paul encourages with these words of hope: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

6. Life and good health are gifts from God.

Why is it that we are so quick to question God’s character when we are faced with hardship, yet scarcely acknowledge him when enjoying good health and things are going well? Where does life and good health come from in the first place? The Bible clearly claims “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Therefore, if God were to eliminate all humanity this instant, he would not have compromised his justice or righteousness. The astonishing reality is that we are only alive today because God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).

7. In Christ, all suffering is temporary.

The Bible encourages us with the following verses about heaven:

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17)

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:3-5)

To be continued …

If you would like to hear more about this subject, please join us at the Destin Church of Christ, 150 Beach Drive, this Sunday morning at 9 a.m. as we discuss the Life of Joseph.

Russ Whitten is minister of Destin Church of Christ. He can be reached at russwhitten@gmail.com.