Why Does God Allow Suffering?
This is a question people have asked for ages. It is a question of Theodicy
Theodicy means God’s Justice. And the question is how can a just God allow the existence of physical and moral evil?
If God is truly Sovereign and not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without his knowledge and consent, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
The answer is Love.
If we believe what the Scriptures say in 1st John 4:15, “God IS Love” then nothing he does or allows can be contrary to Love. Love is His Nature. It is Who He IS and everything that he does must emanate from His Person. That being said, there are things that God allows that He does not will.
God is Free and Created us in His Image. The Image of God in us includes freedom of the will:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Ge 1:26–27.
Adam’s First Act is a Creative Act of Free Will: To Name the Animals.
Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. Genesis 2:19–20
Freedom to Choose the Good, also means freedom to choose evil. God did not create robots. He created us in his own image to give, receive, and share love. Love cannot come from robots because love is an aspect of freedom. You cannot make someone love you. You may be able to make them hate you, but you cannot force love. Love is the highest and greatest good, and since freedom is essential to love, love entails the risk of that freedom being misused. That is what the Tree of Good and Evil represents. It represents the choice we all have to obey God and follow love, or choose selfishness and reject God’s ways. This possibility of choosing evil and sin was written into the very foundation of the universe. It is part of the structure of freedom.
So if God is Sovereign and could prevent all evil, disease and natural disaster, why doesn’t he or why won’t he? It all has to do with this Freedom and with Dominion.
What is Dominion? The definition is sovereignty, control, or sovereign control.
We say that when we say the Lord’s prayer.
Thy Kingdom (Thy Dominion) Come, They will be done on earth as it is already being done in heaven right now. The Kingdom of God is where God’s will is totally being done. Obviously, it is not being done here on the earth right now.
But here is the rub: God gave dominion to mankind for the entire earth:
And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God gave mankind that authority, control, and power overall the earth.
The Analogy: a father gives his son a toy truck. The kid handles it roughly and breaks it. It is the kid’s and he is responsible for it, and just like the Father doesn’t take it back, God doesn’t take back what he has given to humanity. The whole earth may be God’s but the responsibility for it is man’s.
Adam rebelled. He is responsible for the use or misuse of this creation. God did not take it back from Adam. Adam subjected himself to Satan’s Lordship when he rejected God’s Word and ate the fruit. And so, he put the entire earth in the power of the Evil One.
“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19, ESV)
How did it get in the power of the evil one if God gave it to us? Because we surrendered our dominion in Adam and gave over our authority to the devil. ‘ And what was the consequence of our sin? The earth was subjected to thorns and thistles. The ground was cursed because of us. Women have pain in childbearing and men have to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow in hard labor. Deuteronomy 28:15: outlines the curses as fear, sickness, disease, poverty, famine, and war. Indeed, the whole earth cries out under the weight of innocent blood shed upon it and roils against the sins of mankind in famine, drought, fire, earthquakes and pestilence.
Because we have made such a mess of things on this earth and gave our dominion over to Satan, Jesus had to come to redeem us from our slavery to the evil one and to take back for us the authority over this planet that God intended us to have.
Jesus shows us what Adam’s dominion would have looked like if Adam had not sinned:
3On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mk 4:35–41.
We live in a world where the evil and rebellious still have freedom to disobey. So we do not see that kind of dominion practiced very often. But we have more authority on this earth than we realize… otherwise Jesus would not have rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith! (Pastor Sanders and the Tsunami, click here to see the story)
Jesus has given his people authority over sickness and disease and this earth, though we do not exercise it as we should.
19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Lk 10:19–20.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mk 16:17–18
Even we sin and do wrong even as we try to follow God, and we do not live in the unity of love as we ought as the people of God on the earth. God is in the process of restoring to humanity what was lost in the fall, but we will not see the fulfillment of it until Jesus returns.
God is indeed Sovereign, and all powerful, but his sovereignty is not meticulous control over our lives and actions, or else we would be turned into robots. He allows us the freedom to make mistakes and do wrong, and because of that he allows things that he does not wish or will us to do. And those misdeeds have consequences: drunk drivers kill innocent bystanders. There are sexual abusers and predators, murderers and theft. Disease has infected the earth through generations of sin. Love Canal: the sin of greedy men caused a whole neighborhood to get cancer.
So, what does it all Mean? Why does God allow Evil?
Freedom is so precious to God and Love is so important to him that he is willing to endure the evil and destruction that men do in order that through his mercy, we might turn to him in love, be saved, and love him in return. This can only happen out of our free will, and through our submission to Jesus, God can restore in us the image of what he intended.