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. In my last two articles, I pointed out six 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.

4. Sometimes we suffer because of personal sin.

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

6. Life and good health are gifts from God.

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

7. In Christ, all suffering is temporary.

The Bible encourages us with the following verse about heaven:

“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)

In Philippians 3:21, Christians are promised that Christ will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Commenting on these encouraging verses, Joni Eareckson Tada (who was disabled in a diving accident and is now a quadriplegic) writes:

“I still can hardly believe it. I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness — powerful and dazzling. Can you imagine the hope this gives someone spinal-chord injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or has multiple sclerosis? Imagine the hope this gives someone who is manic-depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.”

8. God is not finished yet!

One of the unique features of the Christian faith is the assurance that although evil and suffering persist in our world today, they will be abolished in the future. Put another way, “the existence of evil does not eliminate the possibility of God, but the existence of God guarantees the elimination of evil.”

9. God experienced human suffering.

The book of Hebrews encourages those who suffer with these words, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The Christian faith proclaims that God took the pain of his creation onto himself. He entered our world of evil, temptation and suffering in the person of Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that Christ, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8) “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:2-5). These profound statements proclaim that God loves us so much that he chose to take on our condition and experience our suffering.

God did not leave the problem of suffering and evil unaddressed. God's response to the problem of evil was that he came right down into it, experienced it and, finally, conquered it. Ravi Zacharias said it well, “Suffering and pain did not spare the very Son of God. God conquers not in spite of the dark mystery of evil, but through it.”

If you want to know what God is like, look at the cross! Jesus, God in the flesh, suffered and died so that you could have forgiveness for your sins, and that you could spend eternity in a place without suffering and evil.

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