Why Is There So Much Suffering?
Turn on the 6:00 pm news. Read the front page of the daily newspaper. Listen to the radio. A day hardly goes by without some major catastrophe of famine, drought, flood, earthquakes, disease, wars and rumors of war. The whole human family raises the question, "why God?" Why must men suffer so? And particularly, why must the righteous and the innocent suffer? How can a God of love allow it?
Scripture portrays a cosmic battle between good and evil, Christ and Satan. Understanding this controversy, which has involved the entire universe, helps answer the question why is there so much human suffering?
One thing for certain, the Bible clearly teaches that God is not the One responsible for the sickness, sorrow, suffering, pain, and death. Scripture indicates God as "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." (Exodus 34:6, 7). But many have attributed these tragedies as "acts of God" when in fact, they are "acts of Satan". But who is Satan? And where did he come from?
The Bible unveils a perfect created angel, Lucifer. "Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty . . . You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you" (Ezekiel 28:12,15). Lucifer was not content with his exalted position in heaven. His brilliant splendor and pride had corrupted him. In selfishness he coveted equality with God Himself. "You have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God . . . I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:13, 14). Lucifer wanted God's authority, but not His love. Lucifer's seeds of rebellion and disloyalty to God's government resulted in an open rebellion and war in Heaven. Amazingly, the Bible reveals that a third of the angelic host were blinded by Lucifer's deception and joined him in rebellion (Revelation 12:4, 7). "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9). Yes, Satan and his evil angels are here and the great controversy of good and evil continues as Satan spreads his rebellion against God upon this earth.
In seducing Adam and Eve to sin Satan ingeniously wrested from them their dominion over the earth. Satan is called the "wicked one" (Matthew 13:19). He was the original sinner and is the father of lies (John 8:44). He is also called the "prince of this world" (John 16:11). He is the cause of sin with its fruitage of sickness and death (Ezekiel 28:15; Luke 13:16; John 8:44; Acts 10:38; Hebrews 2:14).
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 13:24-43 NIV to enlighten us on these basic questions. "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?" "An enemy did this", he replied. Jesus explained the meaning of this parable in verse 38. "The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil." The Bible is clear that the root of all sin and destruction are the work of Satan and his evil angels.
We read in Luke 13:10-16, Jesus had healed a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. Notice in verse 16, Jesus attributes her long illness to "whom Satan had bound." God is not responsible at all. The Bible tells us, "an enemy has done this."
Why then does God allow Satan to carry on his work of destruction? Why didn't God immediately destroy Satan when he sin? This can be understood only in the light of God's character. God is omnipotent, but His power must be understood to mean the ability to fulfill His purposes and His purposes cannot conflict with His character. The Bible tells us that "God is love." (I John 4:8). And if God is a God of love, He must have beings who can respond and worship Him in love, it must be voluntarily given. We can truly love only by choice, and we can be truly happy only if we love, for love is what makes us happy. God had created both angels and men and given them the power of choice. Another words, He created His creatures as free moral agents with the ability to choose to obey Him, serve Him, and love Him, or not! God did not want puppets or robots to serve Him mindlessly with no love. This naturally involved the risk that someday someone would choose not to. The first being to choose to serve himself rather than the Creator was Lucifer. He deceived a third of the angelic host and later mankind to serve him. Lucifer claimed that God was unjust and unfair and that His universal laws cannot be kept. He insinuated that God is restrictive and that the Ten Commandments are outdated. Lucifer implied that disobedience was the way to happiness, that freedom meant being free from obeying God. As a result, our world has plunged into misery. Can you see the consequences of Lucifer's decision? This is a planet in rebellion against God!
Let us think for a moment. Suppose God had destroyed Satan at the outset of his rebellion. Wouldn't that have solved all the pain and suffering? If God had destroyed Satan immediately, it would have made his lies seem true. The heavenly beings would have reasoned that God was a tyrant - just like what Lucifer had insinuated. Boy, we better straighten up or He may zap us too! All other heavenly hosts would then have served God out of fear, not love. In God's infinite wisdom, He allows Satan to reveal His true character and purpose so that the whole universe may witness the cause and effect of sin.
The salvation of humanity was at stake in Christ's ministry and death for He came to give His life for the remission of our sins. In doing so, He vindicated His Father's character, law, and government, against which Satan had cast false aspersions. Christ's life and ministry vindicated God's justice and goodness and demonstrated to the whole universe that God's law and government were fair, just and righteous. Christ revealed the groundlessness of Satan's accusations against God, showing that through total dependence on God's power and grace repentant believers could rise above the harassments and frustrations of daily temptations and live victorious over sin.