If God is Good Why Do People Suffer?
“But when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, darkness came. I am churning within and cannot rest; days of suffering confront me. I walk about blackened, but not by the sun. I stood in the assembly and cried out for help.” Job 30:26-28 (HCSB)
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that every pursuit of good is met with only evil? That your pursuit of God is continually met with pain and suffering?
The most common question people have about God is some variation on the idea of God being good, yet evil existing in the world. Why are there disasters? Why are innocents killed? If God is good, why do people suffer? As the Bible reveals answers to these questions, we are reminded of the love and care of God even in the midst of hurting.
Suffering exists in our world for one simple reason: sin, which was introduced into the equation by Adam and Eve. There was no suffering in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. Cain did not murder Abel until sin entered the world. The flood happened because people continuously did evil.
All evil and suffering exist because sin entered the world. That God is good can be seen by the fact that He did not abandon His creation. Sin is a continual affront to God. The miracle is that He still relates to us at all. Instead of leaving the people He created, we see Him working in history to redeem people, demonstrating His tender care and compassion.
Suffering exists because sin brought it upon us; suffering will ultimately be removed when God makes all things new.
But what about when we suffer personally? It’s one thing to talk about the existence of suffering as a category. What about when I suffer? When you suffer? When a woman is raped or a child is murdered? Why do those things happen? The Bible gives us at least three reasons Christians suffer.
1. A World of Suffering
We suffer because we live in a world of suffering. We are not exempt from it. Jesus suffered, as do His followers. “You will have suffering in this world,” Jesus said1. His promise was not deliverance from suffering, but peace within it.
2. God’s Glory
We suffer so that God may be glorified. Sometimes this happens in healing. But other times it comes by our praise of Him when He chooses not to heal us. When the disciples questioned Jesus about a blind man, they expected blame for his condition to be placed on either him or his parents. Jesus turned their expectations around when He revealed the purpose: that God’s works could be revealed.2
When Job lost everything He owned and all ten children in rapid succession, his response was to praise God in the midst of his mourning. Job’s faithfulness left us with one of the most poignant lines of worship in all the Bible: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.”3
3. Our Sin
We suffer when we sin. Too often, we hope God winks at our sin. We want a warning we’ve earned a ticket. We want to smoke for 40 years and never get cancer. We want to ignore our spouse and never face divorce. The simple fact is that God judges the sins of His people.4 Though God is extraordinarily merciful, He is far too loving to allow us to continue in sin. His goal is always that we will return to Him, even in the midst of our suffering.
1- John 16:33, HCSB
2- John 9:1-7
3- Job 1:21, HCSB
4- 1 Peter 4:17