The Problem of Evil and Suffering
Dear Counselor: I cannot understand why God allowed the tragedies such as the school shootings and killings in Littleton, Colorado, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the disasters of Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil explosion in the Gulf, volcanic explosions, earthquakes, shootings and other evils. If He is so good, why does/did He allow good people and Christians to be killed. These seem to be senseless tragedies and it has shaken my faith…
Answer: Dear Friend, Please consider the wisdom of this article. May it help your faith and comfort your heart.
The dilemma of evil and suffering.
We are gripped with the age-old question of why there is so much suffering and evil in the world today after the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton Colorado and then, on September 11, 2001, Terrorists hijacked civilian airliners and crashed them into the World trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. These examples of evil deeds, destructive and senseless actions give us all pause. There are no pat answers which can sufficiently explain these horrific events.
In the Bible we read about many kinds of calamities and evil perpetrated by men against other men.
The Lord recognizes and hates the evil in men:
Gen 6:5 “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (NIV)
Judg 3:7 “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” (NIV)
There were many evil Kings in the Bible. Manasseh was one of them: 2 Chr 33:6
“He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger”. (NIV)
David wrote about the evil deeds of men:
Ps 38:20 “Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good”. (NIV)
Ps 71:4 “Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men.+ (NIV)
Sorting through the dilemma.
In Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart we read an insightful answer to the dilemma of evil & suffering in the world:
“Sometimes the problem of evil is put to the Christian in the form of a complex question, “If God is good, then He must not be powerful enough to deal with all the evil and injustice in the world since it is still going on. If He is powerful enough to stop wrongdoing, then He Himself must be an evil God since He’s not doing anything about it even though He has the capability. So which is it” Is He a bad God or a God that’s not all powerful?” Though many writers in the Bible complained about suffering and evil….the Scriptures make it plain that God did not create the world in the state in which it is now, but evil came as a result of the selfishness of man. The Bible says that God is a God of love and He desired to create a person and eventually a race that would love Him. But genuine love cannot exist unless freely given through free choice and will and thus man was given the choice to accept God’s love or to reject it. The choice made the possibility of evil become very real. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they did not choose something God created, but, by their choice, they brought evil into the world. God is neither evil nor did He create evil. Man brought evil upon himself by selfishly choosing his own way apart from God’s way.”
So blaming God for suffering and evil in the world is like saying “You shouldn’t have given us a choice Lord. You should have made us love you and forced us to obey you.” But that would not have been real love. Would you want to force someone to love you? When you walk(ed) down the aisle, and say (said) “I do”, what would it feel like if you were told you had no choice but to love the person and marry him/her or else? God has been very fair and righteous to give us a choice about loving Him. We, unfortunately, made the decision to go our own way rebelling against God. So now we have to live with the consequences of choosing sin instead of Him. Our rebellion and broken relationship with God has brought a tremendous amount of evil and suffering in the world.
Still we wonder how this type of senseless evil could occur. And why do God’s innocent children suffer? Why does He not intervene?
Somehow we are struck again with the realization that life is not fair, that life is short and that at any time we could be thrust into eternity.
How can we deal with the uncertainty and unfairness of life? How can we help others to deal with this?
C.S. Lewis’ books The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity have had a profound impact on many lives helping people understand the cause of evil and suffering and why God allows it.
Lewis estimates that 4/5 of human suffering is caused by human beings being wicked to one another.
In The Problem of Pain, Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
“The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God… Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” C.S. Lewis
Lewis teaches us that we must remember- this world is not our home, we are just passing through. There is another world we are going to. And Christians are not exempt from suffering in this world. But if you are unsure about your standing with God then it is of crucial importance to make certain you know where you are headed for eternity. Jesus talked about hell more than heaven. He said some very profound things about both which need to be taken seriously.
Jesus said in John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”” (NIV)
In light of these traumas and evils how shall we live? Let us be certain about our destiny by trusting solely in Christ for our salvation, not in works or anything else. St. Paul writes in Eph 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV)
Let us live fervently for Christ ready to be martyred for our faith and to fill up His sufferings bringing glory to God. Let us find comfort in Christ when these things occur. For Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, & you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matt 11:28-30 (NIV)
Let us trust that God has a plan and purpose for us when suffering and evil abound in the world and personally touch us.
Let us abide in Christ to know His power and strength for living in everything we experience for Paul writes in Phil 4:13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (NIV)
Let us not be afraid to grieve the losses in life or face the uncertainities in the future.
Let us grow close to our Father in heaven to experience His presence saying with the Psalmist in Ps 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (NIV)
Let us put our hope in heaven because this world is not our home and Jesus has said in John 14:1-6 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”” (NIV)
If you need to talk with a counselor contact AACC for a referral to a counseling professional in your area. See our hotlines page for more resources. Or write to Lynette Hoy at http://www.counselcareconnection.org/services.asp
I recommend reading the following books:
What a Christian Believes; An Easy to Read Guide to Understanding by Ray Pritchard
Putting Your Past Behind You: Finding Hope for Life’s Deepest Hurts by Erwin Lutzer Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve by Lewis Smedes
Disappointment with God by Phillip Yancey
Recovering from the Losses of Life by H. Norman Wright
Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?
When we place our trust in Jesus Christ asking Him for forgiveness of our sins and eternal life… He promises to give these spiritual gifts to us. That is when you will truly be able to have the supernatural power to go on with your life. And when we experience God’s forgiveness in Christ, then we are able to forgive others. Rom. 6:23 says: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That means that everyone of us will suffer eternal death and separation from God because of the sin in our lives (which we not only do but have inherited) unless we place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we receive the GIFT of eternal life. We don’t have to DO anything to receive a gift…just take it! Our sins are then totally forgiven. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. But we have to trust in Him.
Alternative religious views have saviors who remain in the grave. No other system offers everlasting life as a gift to those who follow their leaders. None of those leaders has overcome death. No other system offers assurance of forgiveness, eternal life, and adoption into the family of God.
Jesus Christ offers you salvation because He died for your sins and rose from the dead. You can call on God and trust in His Son in the same way a drowning person calls for help and relies on the rescue of a lifeguard. Romans 10:9 says: “That if you confess with your mouth,
“Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.(NIV)
The salvation Christ offers does not depend on what we have done for Him, but on our acceptance in who He is and what He has done for us. Instead of moral and religious effort, this salvation requires a helpless admission of our sins. Instead of personal accomplishments, it requires confession of failure to meet God’s standard of holiness. Unlike all other belief systems, Christ asks us to trust solely in Him and His work on the cross and to commit our lives to Him–not to merit salvation but as an expression of gratitude, love, and confidence in the One who has saved us solely by grace (the unmerited favor of God). Eph 2:8-9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.(NIV) Rom 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift ofGod is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(NIV)
Won’t you consider asking Christ into your life today. Just pray simply:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. I turn my life over to you because I believe that You died for my sins and You are the only way to heaven and to have peace with God. You are the only One who can save and forgive me. Please cleanse me of my sins, come into my life and change me today. In Jesus’ Name I ask this. Amen
In Matt 28:20 Jesus says this: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
I Jn 5:20 says: “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true– even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”(NIV)
If you have just placed your trust in Jesus Christ, you are now a Christian on your way to heaven and nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. You are starting a brand new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”. Your sins have been paid for. Your slate has been wiped clean. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” He was saying that you will discover that your present life is more meaningful and hopeful now that you have a relationship with the God of the universe.
To grow in your new relationship with Christ, attend a solid Bible teaching church to learn more and to fellowship with God’s family. You can contact the WillowCreek Association for a recommendation to a church near you. Read your Bible and pray everyday. Start by reading the gospel of John in the New Testament.
If you have prayed this prayer please emai Lynette Hoy and include your name and address. You will receive the free book: An Anchor for the Soul- Help for the Present, Hope for the Future by Pastor Ray Pritchard. God bless you! Some other books I recommend are: (you can order them on our resources page):
Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart
How You Can be Sure You will Spend Eternity with God by Erwin Lutzer
© copyright 2017 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC