Why does God allow Evil and Suffering?
Why did God allow there to be evil in the world? We are God's creation, aren't we? Why couldn't He have just made us evil-free and then none of this horror would be happening? He's supposed to be all-powerful right? Either He's not as powerful as we're led to believe, He's not as perfect as we're led to believe, or He's just another abusive father who enjoys watching his children suffer. What's the purpose? What's the point?
I read a book once where the author was visiting a man he intended to interview. On the outside of the man's office was a cartoon with two turtles having a conversation. The first turtle says to the second one, "If I got a chance to talk to God, I'd ask Him why He allows there to be so much evil in the world." The second turtle responded thoughtfully,"I'd be afraid He'd ask the same question of me."
Think about this illustration. If you owned a dog and you came home from work each day and the dog met you when you came in the door and jumped up and down and licked you and loved on you, wouldn't you feel uplifted and loved? Filled with joy? If people were watching, wouldn't they see that you had a great relationship with your dog and that the dog really loved you? But what if you had the dog chained to the front door so he didn't have a choice but to be at the door when you got home. Where would your joy be, then? What would the people watching think?
God could indeed have made us sin-free. But to do so, he would have had to make us choice-free. When Eve and then Adam chose to eat of the fruit, they were exercising the right of choice that God had given them. They were lured and lied to, true. But they had the choice to say no. Because they didn't, we have the sin that has been passed down. All of us - believers and non-believers alike - wrestle with the daily struggles of the "Adam and Eve" within us. Only through the power of Jesus' Holy Spirit in us can we truly have victory over the nature that was handed down to us.
But you know all of that. That's what everybody says when we ask "Why, God?" But wait... there's more.
What if it was possible that all Christians had God's total protection and nothing bad ever happened. What did Satan say to God?
"Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face. (Job 1:9-11)
What if God made a hedge about us on every side? Would not people say, "So what that you love God. Anybody would love God if He protected them the way He does you. I'm not impressed. Your God doesn't offer me anything,I live in the real world."
What if, on the other hand, those people were watching us suffer? They saw that we deal with the same issues they deal with. The same pain, the same struggles and heartaches.
...after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:40b-42)
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great. (Matthew 5:11-12)
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 3-4)
What do each of these passages have in common? They are all describing rejoicing, not in spite of the suffering, but because of it. And finally, Paul said
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)
"But that was Paul. What kind of suffering could he have gone through? Certainly, he was protected by God!" In Paul's words, look at what he's referring to as "momentary light affliction" just a few short paragraphs later...
..in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Cor 11:23-27)
Paul ran the race well. People saw that his faith in God was persistent, consistent, and profound. And they learned to trust Paul's God, not in spite of his pain and misery, but Praise God, because of it.
"But it's not like I'm suffering for Christ's sake?" Oh, but you certainly are. Why? Because people are watching.
In your suffering, you need Him more than ever. Show them what a wonderful, comforting Lord you have. Give purpose and meaning to your suffering. Use the comfort you get from God in your suffering as training so you might comfort others. Teach those who don't know the Lord to lean on Him in their suffering by leaning on Him in yours. Show them that you love Him and trust Him and know that He'll see you through even this. Bring them to Him as your faithful, loving father in your times of trouble. Show them who He is. Your good times will never be as productive for Him as your bad times. Rejoice that Jesus has considered you worthy of suffering in His name.
Why does God allow suffering? Because if He didn't, people would stop watching.