No one likes to see suffering, hear about it, or even think about it. But, the truth is that it is happening all around us everyday. This is a question that I have been asked numerous times, and on numerous occasions.
“Why does God allow suffering?”
“Why does God allow children to starve to death?”
“Why are there horrible diseases that cause people to writhe in pain?”
The list could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. And, I’m also probably sure that you have asked these questions a time or two yourself. I know I have, at one time. Today, I hope to shed some light on this very situation for you, and hopefully give you some peace about it.
Suffering is difficult enough to deal with the thought of it happening. Let alone, seeing commercials of the starving child in Africa, the abused animal in the SPCA, or the child riddled with cancer at St. Jude’s.
Let’s be real here. I hate those commercials, and I’m not going to lie. When I see one I usually turn the channel, because it’s painful to watch. Suffering sucks.
Here are 4 things we have to remember why God allows suffering:
1. We Are Fallen And Corrupted
Let’s start with the obvious. Us. When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, death and disease entered the world. Genesis 2:16-17 tells us the story.
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.
You see we had the option to eat from the whole garden, but there were two trees in particular that were special: the tree of life (Gen. 2:9), and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We obviously chose the latter.
God said if we ate of this tree that we would surely die. Now, Adam and Eve didn’t die immediately, but death entered the human genome. If we had partaken of the tree of life, things would be a lot different. But alas, we did not, and our flesh became corrupted allowing for death, disease, and ultimately suffering to come forth and become part of humanity. Which leads me to our next point.
2. Our Days Are Numbered
Now, since death came forth into the human genome that obviously means that we were not meant to die previously. Don’t get caught up in this, because it doesn’t really matter, except to say that death is here now. So now that death is here, our days are literally numbered. The Psalmist explains it this way in Psalm 139:16,
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
Before one day of your life came to pass, every one of them was numbered. Hebrews 9 tells us that it is destined for man to die once and then face the judgment. We are all going to die, but yes some deaths are worse than others.
Now, that we have an understanding of life and death, let’s look at why God “allows” suffering.
3. God Is Not In Control Of This World
WHAT?! I know, right? Many people do not understand this principle. But, it’s the truth. Let’s look at a few of the scriptures that help us understand this.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. – Ephesians 2:1-2
Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. – John 12:31
I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; – John 14:30
in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4
What we see is that God is not in control of this world. Satan, the devil, or the prince of the air (whatever you want to call him) is. Once we were booted out of the garden, everything changed.
Since God is not in control of this world that means we don’t live under His system. But, we forget this or block it out, because we only want to serve a Santa Claus Jesus who only brings us good. This brings me to my final point.
4. We Live Under The World’s System
I want to paint a picture in a way that I hope will help you understand this. Imagine if you will the Queen of England. Now, the Queen represents God, and England represents heaven (God’s Kingdom). America represents Earth.
The queen has no rule or representation in America, except through her ambassadors. Since God is not in control of the Earth, He has no rule here except through His ambassadors, i.e. Christians. As believers, our citizenship is no longer of this Earth. We are simply ambassadors of a kingdom to come.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. – Philippians 3:20
What is the purpose of an ambassador? They are to represent the “kingdom” from which they come. And yes, we have to understand that there are good and bad representatives of the Kingdom. Some may only promote one aspect of the Kingdom, or wreak havoc on the kingdom’s identity, but that is for another time and another place.
As believers, we are to represent the Kingdom of God. We are to be advocates for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the impoverished, and all those who live in conditions that are not present in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus taught us to pray saying, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We are to bring Heaven to Earth, as ambassadors of that Kingdom.
I believe Edmund Burke said it best,
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
As believers, the success of evil depends on our doing or lack there of to bring forth the Kingdom. When you continue to live over stuffed while thousands go hungry, you are not being a proper advocate for the Kingdom. When you do not take care of the hungry, thirsty, naked, or impoverished you are not being a good ambassador of the Kingdom.
I know you may say, “But Jesus said I have overcome the world.” No, actually he said this,
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
Jesus told us straight up that we will have tribulation in this world, even though He has overcome the world. The reason why is because the Kingdom is here, but not yet. It is here in partiality, but not in fullness. Remember, the heavens and the earth will be made new at the resurrection.
For now we see through a mirror darkly as Paul puts it. You can read more on that HERE, where I explain why God answers some prayers, but not others.
Children starve in Africa (and across the globe), because greed and selfishness overtakes men who have extra, refuse to give to those who lack.
But, here is the kicker. You cannot make men do good. They have to choose it for themselves (or else that is communism). Notice how Jesus didn’t force the rich young ruler to give away his excess to the poor. He simply told him what he should do and gave him the choice. And, we must also remember that some live impoverished lives because they have not or refuse to put their hand to the plow and work.
There are many factors that play into suffering and lack. My hope is that this will provide you with some clarity and hopefully peace about the current state of suffering in the world, from a spiritual aspect. And we have to look at it through that lens,
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
So, why does God allow suffering? Suffering exists because we are a corrupted species, whose days are literally numbered. We live under the world’s system in which God is not in control of, rather we are simply ambassadors of the Kingdom that is to come.
But, rest assured a day will come when all suffering and evil will be wiped away, when all things will be made new (the resurrection). The heavens and the earth will be remade. Don’t wait until that day, be an active ambassador now.