“You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” – John 16:33
If there is a God who is all powerful and all loving, then why does evil and suffering exist? The cruelty in the world is enough evidence to dissuade any thinking person against belief in God.
This is such a massive topic, and, in terms of thoroughness, I will not be able to discuss all the various issues that typically come up when discussing this subject. I would highly recommend a previous article I wrote where I discuss this topic in greater depth, and I also lists good books on the topic for further study (see: The Problem of Evil: 10 Considerations).
I do, however, want to say something about this issue in this series. Two big pillars we’re given in Scripture is (1) God is good, loving, and merciful (Ps. 34:8; Jas. 1:17), and (2) God is sovereign, providentially ordaining whatsoever comes to pass (Ps. 135:6; Eph. 1:11). Both of these must be the pillars we hold firm when discussing this issue. God is certainly good, and God is sovereign, even over suffering and evil (Job 1-2; Isa. 45:7; Lam. 3:37-38; Dan 4:35).
From the start it must first be said that God created the world without evil, suffering, or death. It was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), we’re told. Humans, however, brought evil into God’s creation by breaking His law, trying to be gods ourselves (Gen. 3:5-6). The Fall of man is the reason we see evil and suffering in the world.
C.S. Lewis, reminiscing of the time when he was an atheist, said this about the problem of evil:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’?… What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?… Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies… Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.
God’s plan of redemption is not only that man be reunited, forensically and relationally, to the Father through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-19), but also that Jesus will reconcile all things – both small and cosmic – to Himself (Col. 1:20). When we see suffering and evil in the world it should cause us to say, “Come Lord Jesus. Come Quickly!” (Rev. 22:20). When Jesus returns there will be no more evil, no more sin, no more suffering, no more death, and no more disease (c.f., Rev. 21:4).
Thus, we can summarize by saying that the first Adam is seen as bringing death into the world (Rom. 5:12-21), but Christ, the second Adam, is the answer to the problem of evil—He will do what the first Adam could not do: bring humanity into consummation (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1, 27). You may try to use the existence of evil to deny Christianity, but in so doing, you will be denying the very answer to the problem of evil. Perhaps instead of asking, “Why is it that I see tremendous suffering in the world?” we should ask, as Randy Alcorn put it, “Isn’t it more remarkable that God would create a world in which no one would suffer more than he?”
“When you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps” – 1 Peter 2:20-21
Also in this series:
© copyright J. Brandon Burks
As quoted in: Timothy Keller, Reasons for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead, 2008), 26.
Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2009), 215.