This is a great question, and one that I’m sure most of us have asked at one point or another. I remember standing in a slum in Kenya in 2010 where I was met with some incredible poverty. And I couldn’t help but ask God the question of “why?” Why did these people have to suffer in this way? In our first post (here) we answered the question of “Is God Real?” So in this post, join me as we explore the question of “If God exists, why is there suffering in the world?”
Let’s first establish a key thing we must remember throughout this – God is all-sovereign and is the one above everything else. It’s important that we clarify that and keep that in our minds. We must also remember that in our human understanding, we are limited in terms of what we are able to grasp. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah 55:8-9, we read- “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” So whilst we cannot fully answer the question (because we are not God), we will endeavour to help us better understand why suffering exists in our world.
When God created humankind, he did not create us as an army of robots. But each of us has been given free will. That means each of us has the choice to say what we want, to think what we want and to act how we want. We can choose to help someone or harm them. But it is our choice to make. And of course, some actions do lead to repercussions!
But it is important to bear that free will in mind. All too often, we blame stuff on God that we have no business blaming on Him. My go-to example is always “if someone punches you in the face, is that their fault or God’s?” Well, it’s that person’s fault. They are the one who made the conscious decision to act out in violence against you. When we look at so much of the suffering around us, it can clearly be linked to the actions, and decisions, made by fellow humans.
As humans, we are accustomed to doing what is wrong. The Bible refers to this as “sin”. Sin can be traced back to the very beginning of humankind (Adam and Eve). We read in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, that God tells Adam and Eve they can eat fruit from any tree they wanted except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What do they do? They disobey. They eat from the one tree that God instructed them not to! Now Eve blamed the snake for her actions and Adam blamed Eve for his. But the point still remains – both of them did wrong. They did what they were told not to do.
We must also recognise that as humans, our understanding has limitations. We see things through our eyes without a full understanding of the big picture. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk is a good example of this. He sees the landscape around him which was filled with injustice and has a hard time mirroring that up with what he knows and understands of God. But throughout the book, we see that things aren’t as Habakkuk sees them. God reveals to Habakkuk that he has a plan, and He knows what He is doing.
We learn from 1 John 4:16 in the New Testament that “God is love” – it is His very nature. He cannot be anything but. So if we match up what we see from the book of Habakkuk that God always has a plan with the fact that He is love at his very core. We get a great understanding of why certain things happen. We may not always know the plan, but there is a loving God who has a clear and purposeful plan.
Of course His love for humankind can be seen most in the fact that He sent His son Jesus to this earth. Jesus himself suffered while on earth. He died on a cross to take away the sin of the world. His death was brutal and painful. It was not a pleasant way to go. But there was a reason for his suffering as I mentioned. It was part of God’s plan to give humankind the opportunity to have forgiveness and redemption.
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