I have just been watching the horrifying images to come out of Haiti directly after the massive earthquake that hit there yesterday. I was praying for the people there and as I pondered the enormity of this disaster, that old question hit me again… Why would a loving God allow awful events to happen?
This question is asked many times - usually by those who haven't been reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to look at it again from a Christian's viewpoint and I wanted to share what I came across as I looked into this controversial subject.
1. God does allow suffering to happen
Not an easy concept for humans to accept! However, the truth is that God does not intervene to stop these dreadful natural tragedies from happening. The same is also the case for child abuse, rape, murder and all manner of other heinous acts. In fact, it is this "problem of pain", as C.S. Lewis once called it, which is atheism's most potent weapon against the Christian faith. Of course, God IS all powerful and so He COULD intervene. The fact that He doesn't is something we will look at shortly. But it is only right and fair to acknowledge this from the outset.
2. Suffering and death weren't in the Master Plan
God is the Creator of the Universe. He is the Master Builder. And the Master Plan? Well, suffering and death didn't feature. The Bible tells us that the initial world was perfect (Gen 1:31). There was no sickness or suffering or death. Excuse the language, but the reason it all went to hell (pun intended!) was down to your and my ancestors. Modern thinking ridicules the story of Adam and Eve so much that a fundamental truth is missed. Man, operating under free will, sinned against God and so started off this chain of events we all witness today. Man chose the way of Satan, rather than the way of God. God doesn't cause the suffering, it is merely a by-product of sin that has infected His initial perfect creation!
3. God doesn't enjoy seeing anyone suffer
Even with sin in the world, God has not abandoned us. We saw this whenever He clothed Adam and Eve after they had first sinned in the Garden of Eden. And to do it He had to kill an animal to get the skin which would clothe them (Gen 3:21). We know from the Bible that God doesn't enjoy seeing anyone suffer, but He does allow people to suffer for various reasons. Again, to be totally honest, I really don't think any of us will totally understand this "problem of pain" this side of eternity. What we do know is that our God is all powerful, all knowing and also all loving.
4. God allowed His own Son to suffer unto death, even the death of a cross
God is no stranger to suffering. He allowed His own Son to suffer unto death, even the death of a cross (Phil 2:8). The Gospels summarise the awful suffering Jesus went through, before and during crucifixion. And God the Father watched and allowed it all to happen! Even though sin entered into the world, effectively separating us from a holy God, God provided an escape. Jesus paid the full price for that sin by dying on our behalf. Acceptance for that sacrifice was confirmed after Jesus was raised on the third day. If we believe in our repentant hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead and acknowledge it with our lips, then the Bible assures us that we will be saved (Rom 10:9).
5. A time IS coming when all sorrow, tears, pain and death will pass away
The Bible tells us in Revelation 21:4 that there is coming a time when all sorrow, tears, pain and death will pass away. There's coming a wonderful day when God will wipe away all tears from the eyes of His children, and our sorrow will end forever. As the suffering in this world goes on, it should shout to us that SOMETHING IS WRONG with our relationship with the God who created the planet we live on. Suffering was not part of God's directive will for His creation. In His permissive will, He does allow suffering to continue as a consequence for mankind's initial rejection of Him.
However, I realise how finite our knowledge is, this side of eternity. I wouldn't presume to explain away the depths of human suffering in a clichéd way, but I believe that we must hold on to the truths we do have - one day we will understand from an eternal viewpoint. I also must point out two very important words in one of the sentences above… 'His children'. If you are reading this and you are not a child of God, then please follow the link at the bottom of this Thought.
Let us all be ready to someday meet our Creator God, where all pain and sorrow will be a very distant memory!
…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor 6:2)
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Rom 8:22)
Are you SURE that you have your place booked in Heaven? Read this if you're not!
PS As well as praying for the people in Haiti, please continue to support the aid efforts by donating what amount you can. As I write this, I see that most of the aid agencies already have appeals underway.