Tsunamis. Cancer. Neglect. Abuse. All of these things and more affect those who did nothing to bring these tragedies upon themselves.
If God loves us, why does he allow bad things to happen?
Often, we can rationalize bad things happening to those we consider “bad” people. No one complains about the demise of a murderer. But what about children and upstanding members of the community?
To understand why bad things happen, we’ll have to go back to where it started.
The Fall of Man and When Sin Entered the World
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). As He created, Genesis records that He repeatedly “saw that it was good.”
Once He had created a beautiful world teeming with flora and fauna, He made mankind in His image to dwell in His creation. And with that, He declared everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
For that moment, creation was as it should be. God dwelled with man, and there was no such thing as death and decay.
But it didn’t last.
When Adam and Eve rebelled, the entire world was shaken. They were separated from God, away from His perfection. Sin exploded into the world.
“Cursed is the ground because of you,” God told Adam after his rebellion (Genesis 3:17). “It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Genesis 3:18).
Of the Fall, Paul wrote, “For the creation was subjected to frustration…We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:19-22).
It would take thousands of years and the death of God’s only Son to bring the opportunity for reconciliation between God and man. Even now, the earth and the people who live upon it are still subject to the death, decay, and corruption of sin.
How Does God Use Suffering?
Though God’s original design held no suffering, sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s sin. God allowed them to choose, and they chose poorly.
However, God is still in control. He uses suffering in several positive ways.
1. To Show His Glory
In John 9, Jesus and his disciples encountered a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” (John 9:2)
“‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:3).
The man’s blindness could not have been easy for him. However, because of it, Jesus was able to work a miracle and heal him, showing those around him the power and love of God.
2. To Improve Us and Bring Us Closer to Him
When times are good, it’s easy to forget about our need for God, even though He is the one sustaining the very world we live in. It’s easy to become complacent in our relationship with Him.
Thus, Paul writes, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
Suffering helps us to lean on God and improves our character.
3. To Keep Our Eyes Fixed on Greater Things to Come
If the world was comfortable, we might be tempted to become complacent. But God has something far better for us. In Romans 8:18, Paul says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
It is important to remember Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Who Is Innocent?
Though God does use suffering for good, the suffering comes from somewhere. “For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23 tells us. Not only Adam and Eve’s sin, but our own sin and that of everyone else on this planet bring further catastrophe upon us.
Creation itself is broken because of Adam and Eve’s original sin. Natural disasters, disease, famine—all of these things exist because of a broken world. But another reality of living in a world corrupted by sin is that we can suffer from the sins of others, whether through violence, selfishness, or injustice.
Romans 3:10-12 states,
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Thus, the idea of the innocent suffering is a false one. There is no one who is innocent. Even children are selfish; just ask any parent or educator.
However, our God is a loving God who wants to be with us. This is why Romans 6:23 has a second part: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God poured out the punishment for sin upon Jesus. “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The Bible tells us, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
The Hope of Heaven and When God Will Wipe Away Every Tear
Though watching children and those we love suffer is heartbreaking, for those who put our faith in God, we will one day enjoy everlasting peace and joy with one another in the presence of God.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes,” says Revelation 21:4. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Photo Credit: Getty/kieferpix