Why God Has Allowed Suffering
When God endowed mankind with free will, He knew the potential to reject the divine will was present. So we must assume that God’s purpose allowed for such a contingency. We recall that the commission laid upon Adam and Eve was a long term proposal. It would take many years, many centuries, even millenniums to subdue the entire earth. The actions of Adam and Eve would, at best, delay the completion of their task, but it would not stop it:
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
– Isaiah 55:10-11
We are further told that in addition to subduing the earth, God had an even greater purpose for earthling man; plans He put in motion long before Adam and Eve arrived:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
– Ephesians 1:3-5
Yes, before Adam and Eve were even placed in the Garden of Eden, the Father foreordained that Christ would appear on earth and provide a means for mankind to be adopted into the heavens! Nevertheless, in the intervening time, mankind would continue to be faced with the potential for evil, the free will to accept or reject the divine will, and the inevitable consequences of rejecting it. And because we are a family, the sins of one affects others. For example, if in a family, the family head commits a major crime and goes to prison, the entire family, though innocent, will suffer.
Some suffering comes not from the conduct of man, but from our mere existence on earth such as when ‘natural’ disasters occur – earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, etc. These things occur because our planet is also imperfect and incomplete. Science tells us our earth is still settling and cooling. Until our planet becomes more stable and less volatile, these events will continue to occur. But again, even these events do not stop the Father’s eternal purpose – neither does death:
“And I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”
- Acts 24:15
Some assume that God allows suffering so that He can establish His right to rule mankind and vindicate his sovereignty. That kind of thinking is shortsighted and small, and grossly underestimates the power of God, the security of God, the absoluteness of God, the uniqueness of God, the wisdom of God, the essence of God, the supernal reality of God, the unquestionable maturity of God, and the very nature of God.
It rests on several false assumptions, including the assumption that the exercise of free will by humans is an affront and challenge to God’s universal sovereignty. As is shown above, free will is a gift from God. He expects us to exercise it. And it did not matter whether man’s first choice was wise or not. The ultimate outcome will be as God intended from the beginning.
The so-called sovereignty challenge is also defective in that it assumes the Lucifer/Satan/ Devil rebellion against God only affected humans on earth such that human obedience would resolve the matter. However, the Bible tells us that a large number of the heavenly host fell into rebellion and were misled by the demonic sophistry. (Jude 6) Man’s obedience would not effect a resolution to angelic rebellion.
The solution to universe rebellion was resolved by the Jesus Christ, not mankind. His rulership (and consequently the Father’s sovereignty) was firmly established when he returned to heaven after his resurrection:
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
– Matthew 28:16-18
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mind set as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2:5-11
Though man is very important to the Father, our obedience or disobedience is a very small matter in the overall scheme of the universe. And when we add to the equation the Father’s gift of free will, not only to man, but also to the angelic hosts, we know that disobedience and even rebellion were contingencies that the Father anticipated and prepared for. Our God is not a god in training!
God allows suffering because He allows free will. We cannot escape the consequences of our choices, and the choices of those around us. We indeed reap what we sow.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
– Galatians 6:7-9
But the Father is also faithful and merciful and loving. He has provided guidance and counsel to assist us in encountering the dangers around us in as wise a fashion as possible. To every one of life’s challenges, we can find guidance and assistance through the inspired words of the Bible, through the compassion and love of our fellow man, and through the spiritual refreshment and guidance of Holy Spirit, including the Spirit of Truth. We are also told:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
– 1 Corinthians 10:13
And finally, we are told that this life is temporary and of relatively short duration compared to the life set before us – the real life:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
– 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Yes, there is more for us beyond this life – a life that will make these temporary trials seem as nothing:
“However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9
Yet in the interim, this life of relative evil and suffering allows another important aspect of universal peace and divine purpose to manifest itself, as discussed in the next subheading.