In view of the apocalyptic like destruction over the last month, from hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires, many people are voicing their inner frustrations and fears with the questions like “Why God, are you allowing this to happen?” This age old question concerning why God allows suffering, has even eked out of some very prominent and godly Christians leaders in America, like Anne Graham Lotz.
“As I watch and read the news coverage coming out of the Gulf Coast, my anguish is deeper than words. My tears seem to flow in a torrent that matches the record rainfall,”
“My spirit is crying out, ‘No. No! No!’ How can this be? How can You allow Hurricane Harvey to sit over Texas? To slam into Louisiana? To ruin property and destroy lives? Why?”
In spite of my love and respect for Lotz, her questions really irritate me. They irritate me because of the futility of even asking them at all, because these types of questions are not unanswerable; in fact they are quite simple to answer. That being the case, so few Christian leaders simply answer the question(s) from a biblical perspective, as if we are afraid or unable to speak the truth.
My second frustration is more personal. These questions irritate me because similar questions rise in my mind when I am overwhelmed, fearful, or struggling with doubt and unbelief. In spite of knowing the truth, my flesh almost automatically responds with ignorance. If we are not careful when shaken by immense personal suffering or that brought on by catastrophic events, our minds will doubt God’s goodness and love, if allowed to wallow in carnality instead of walking in faith.
Lets face the fact: few people (even Christians) question God’s love or the “Why” of suffering, when things are relativity good. Nor is thankfulness to God a consistent practice in those relatively good times. But let the bad times roll over the good times, and even the most devout followers of Christ are tempted to ask God the maddening “Why God” questions.
Consider three men from the “Right WAY Roofing Company”…
“Right WAY Roofing Company” repaired and replaced roofs. With only a crew of 8 men, they could completely replace any residential roof in three days or less, no matter the size, or they would pay for the job themselves. In 6 years they had a 100% success rate, and Tony, who owned the company was making tons of cash.
That all changed one day when Harry, one of Tony’s crew came to work with a killer hang over. Tony knew Harry was off the moment he stepped out of his car. Although told he could take a personal day, Harry convinced Tony he was OK and began work. All was well for the first three hours, except for a splitting head ache. In the heat of the early afternoon, his headache intensified significantly. As he moved to rub his right temple, he knocked his hammer out of its holster onto the roof. Upon grasping his fallen hammer, he wobbled slightly, which caused his finger to hit the fire button; the result was a roofing nail fired into Derrick’s (a co-worker) foot.
The fallout of this accident had many negative effects. Derrick was out of work for two years. The entry of the nail led to a severed toe. Due to an associated infection he lost another toe and subsequently became addicted to pain medication. All of this misfortune put a strain on his families financial and spiritual life. He and his wife often would ask in anger “Why did God allow this to happen to me (us), I (we) never did anything wrong to deserve this?”.
Tony, the owner of the company, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The roof of the home where the injury occurred was not finished on time, therefore, he had to pay the total cost when it was complete. Three other homes were not completed on time, and Tony was fined for not having appropriate workers comp insurance. He lost further monies when he sued Harry for Derrick’s injury and lost, because the judge declared, he should never have chosen to allow him to work; being that the man was hung over and Tony knew it. He also had to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills for Derrick’s injuries not covered by workers compensation, as well as Derrick’s court costs. Tony eventually had to declare bankruptcy and close his business. He would questioningly accuse God “What did I ever do to you?” and “Why are you doing this to me?”.
Harry was the only one who actually got it. He lost perhaps more than anyone. His job was gone. His wife left him because of his inability to get another job, and being sick of the consequences of his alcoholism. He was hated by at least Tony and Derrick and had to bear the weight of making choices that led to the suffering of others. The difference between Harry and the other two men is that he never indicted God with questions as to why his suffering was allowed. He knew it arose from the choices that he made.
Common sense tells us that the suffering of the other men arose from their choices as well. Tony should never have allowed Harry to work and Derrick could have protested working with Harry. Their choices had consequences as well.
Although, this may not answer fully “Why God allows suffering?”, it does give us a start. Suffering is in the world today because God gave man faculty to choose, which we call free will. This gift has great potential for good, but when making bad choices the potential exists for suffering for ourselves or others. Every choice has consequences, sometimes for good, sometimes with little impact and sometimes for potential for suffering. With those consequences, their ripples are often with us longer than those who made the choice are alive. Lets begin with first choice.
BEGINNING AT THE BEGINNING
When God made man, He endowed him with intellect, emotion, physicality and the ability to choose. Remember God did not stay with Adam and Eve all the time, but allowed them to function, exercising that free will without Him manifestly present. In this God would give them commands that were for their good. Of those commands God gave them a strict prohibition to not eat of one tree. This is where their freewill was expressly tested. Without going into the why of the account, Adam freely chose to not obey (I Timothy 2:14). His choice had immediate consequences; very bad consequences. We In hind sight we must remember, God told Adam and Eve what would happen if the chose poorly; They would suffer…
Reading in Genesis 3 we will find the extent of that suffering for them.
- Pain for the woman in child birth.
- Her role in the marriage would be the weaker vessel in submission.
- The man would work his entire life bringing forth a fraction of produce for the effort put forth.
- The ground would be cursed.
- They died spiritually the instant they chose sin, being cut off from the life of God.
- They would eventually die physically and have to wait for their redemption, should they walk in faith in animal sacrifices.
We also consider that their choice like a rock thrown in the middle of a pond, had far reaching consequences, where the ripples would effect others long past the splash of the initial impact.
(Romans 5:12) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned.
(Romans 5:19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
These two passage reveal two more consequences of Adam’s sin…
- All men are born with a heart bent toward sin.
- Death and sickness (the break down of health toward death) entered the human race.
There is one more passage to consider when dealing with Adam’s sin and its consequence even as far as our time today.
(Romans 8:20-22) for creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
How did that corruption come upon the creation? Through the choice of Adam (Genesis 3:17). This applies to all creation. Therefore as we get closer to the return of Jesus’ creation will groan and labor more and more (Matthew 24:7-8).
Just through Adam’s one sin nine consequences have arisen, which impact our world today, with suffering every way, shape, and form. This answer may not be what people want to hear, but it is true. In America we love the word freedom. We have found that the gift of democratic freedom, in others who don’t live by biblical principals, often pinches our way of life grievously. This is especially true in the way of sexual morality and life itself, but we understand this is what freedom allows. Freedom allows others to choose, and we live in the ripples of those consequences.
Therefore we can understand why God allows consequences to have ripples of effect within His own Almighty sovereignty. This is not to blame all suffering on humanity, for we understand without fallen supernatural creature, there would have been no Garden temptation. Remember, fallen angels and demonic spirits rebelling against God, exacerbate and cause much natural suffering. It would appear that God endowed His supernatural creatures with free will as well. Their activities, as well as humanities, are allowed by God under the blanket of His sovereignty. The Bible displays how those choices together brought near and far off consequences.
Recall with me that before the Genesis flood, that the earths ecology was very different. Science concurs that before the flood, as recorded in the bible, little if any rain was likely to have fallen (Genesis 2:6). We understand that man chose to be extremely wicked, so wicked in fact that every inner thought was only continually evil; save for Noah and his family. How did that take place? Well men had problems with God from the Eden; but inject into those problems the fallen angels (sons of God), and their wicked offspring with human woman (Nephilim) and you have a rebellion cocktail of wicked choice (Genesis 6:5).
When the flood came to kill them all, the water left behind in the oceans and atmosphere increased temperatures and brought about severe whether. Again, suffering from killer weather today, is a result of angelic and human evil choice and God’s response in judgment. As not to be too simplistic lets understand how our choices may be making weather and natural disasters more severe.
Although I am not a global warming alarmist, I am a realist when it comes to the world in which we live. Global warming crazies are generally either ill informed parrots (Leonardo DiCaprio comes to mind), or political hacks looking to use the science to their advantage. I believe that history shows the world warms up and cools down naturally, over decades and centuries, as it needs to. I also believe our choice of consumption can impact the warming up and cooling down of the earth. That being said, we had been in a period of warming over the last century or so. Is it possible that our choice of fossil fuels and the like have exacerbated the process, fueling more powerful storms with greater damage? Its possible.
Shifting gears, what of the choice of North Korea to detonate a Hydrogen bomb 40 times more powerful than that of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan? This monstrosity was detonated hundreds if not thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. When detonated it cause a magnitude 3.4 earth quake in North Korea. Since that time there have been two 8.0 scale quakes in Mexico, a swarm of quakes in Idaho (141) with the strongest a magnitude 5.3, and several more hitting Japan, with the strongest 6.0 yesterday. Is it possible this swarm of quakes world wide has something to do with the hydrogen bomb test by North Korea? Yes, it is more than possible.
Should we condemn North Korean leadership for this possibility? Yes we can. But let us remember, despotic leaders choices leading to the suffering of others, usually do not arise in a vacuum. Over time, other world leaders choosing to do little or nothing to curb this aggression, led to the proactive detonation. Russia, China and the U.S. had ample opportunity to make sure one of the poorest nations in the world never nuclearized their military or starved 10 million of its own citizens, for that matter. The choice to do nothing or the wrong thing has escalated the potential for human suffering astronomically.
Why does suffering exist in the world? Because men are wicked and choose to use their gift of free will, given by God, to serve their own selfish purposes. God allows suffering because to allow only good outcomes, would not be free will.
Yet if God knows there will be bad outcomes, for He is omniscient (all-knowing), why would He not stop the whole thing before it got as far as it did? Why not block other peoples bad consequences from hurting others?
We will look into this in our next blog, especially how our response to suffering (even caused by other’s poor choices), has great potential for our being blessed, as well as revealing His great love.