Questions as Old as Time: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Greg Laurie
Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California and Harvest Orange County in Irvine, California, shares the Gospel with a sold-out crowd of 19,000 for Harvest America at the American Airlines Center and Victory Park in Dallas, Texas, Oct. 5, 2014. |

Not all that long ago, if you needed an answer to something, you had to talk to a human being. Or, you had to look it up in something called a book. There once were people who sold encyclopedias, and people would invest in a big set of books to have in their libraries. Well, those days are pretty much gone. All we have to do today is go to a search engine and ask a question, or we can ask Siri.

The problem, however, is that any random person can give you any random answer. Just because something is on the Internet doesn't mean that it's true. I read about some actual questions people typed into the Yahoo search engine. One person asked, "Will my laptop get heavier if I put more files on it?" Another queried, "So you think humans will ever walk on the sun?" I love the answer one person gave to that question: "The best answer would be yes, but it would have to be at night." Here's another one: "Is it illegal to kill an ant?"

Then there were serious questions that people asked: "Why is there suffering in the world?" and "What happens after we die?" These questions are not new to the 21st century or even the 20th or 19th centuries. In fact, these were questions people were effectively asking in the first century, during the time of Christ himself.

In John's gospel, chapter 9, we find a story of a blind man who was healed by Jesus. In addition to receiving his sight, he also became a believer. We've heard that seeing is believing. But in his case, believing was seeing, because he saw things he had never seen before – not just the faces of friends and family or the beauty of God's creation.

Because he saw Jesus, this man saw spiritually as well. He discovered the real purpose of life. In fact, because Jesus was the first one he saw when he was healed, he saw everything else in its proper perspective.

When Jesus and his disciples encountered this man, the disciples raised this question: "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (verse 2 NIV). That brings us to another often-asked question: Why does God allow suffering? This is basically what the disciples were asking.

We can take that further and ask why there are babies born with disabilities, why there is war, why there is terrorism, and why there is tragedy. Why? Why? It goes on and on.

Some people who claim to be atheists say they have come to this conclusion after careful study. There may be a few examples of that, but I've found that people generally end up as atheists because something traumatic happened to them. Thus, they had to find a belief system, or lack thereof, that would help them deal with the pain they've had to face.

In the classic statement of this problem, either God is all-powerful, but he is not all-good, and therefore doesn't stop evil; or, he is all-good but is not all-powerful, and therefore he can't stop evil. The general tendency is to blame God for all the evil and suffering in the world, to essentially pass all the responsibility to him. When people do this, there is nothing rational about it. They're upset, so they're placing the blame on God.

In a broad sense, all suffering is a result of sin. However, I'm not suggesting that someone who was born with a disability did something bad to deserve it. Not at all. Suffering, aging and death are all a result of sin. It affects all of us because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It was never God's plan for us to get sick. It was never God's plan for us to get old. Because of the curse of sin, it affects me. It affects you.

You might say, "If I had been in the Garden, I never would have eaten the forbidden fruit."

Of course you would have. Have you ever sinned? If you're honest, you'll say yes. You would have responded to temptation just like they did. But if Adam and Eve had not sinned, the curse would not have come. But because they sinned, the curse did come. We're told in the book of Romans, "When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned" (5:12 NLT).

Why did God make it that way? Why didn't God create us so we wouldn't sin? It's because God doesn't want a bunch of robots. He wants us to love him because we choose to love him. But with the choice to say yes also comes the choice to say no. Free will is our greatest blessing and, in some ways, our worst curse.

There are times, though, when sickness or suffering can come as a result of sin. There can be cause-and-effect in some instances. In John, chapter 5, we read of a paralytic man who was healed. Jesus said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you" (verse 14 NIV).

Someone who drives drunk and gets into an accident or gets a DUI may say, "I don't know why these things happen." They happen because that person is doing foolish things.

But then there are other times when God will allow something traumatic to wake us up. This was the case with Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach, because God wanted to lay down the biggest revival in human history. God wanted to do this through Jonah, but he said no. Jonah didn't want the Ninevites to repent because they were wicked. But God always has the last word.

You know the rest of the story. A storm came while Jonah was on boat headed in the opposite direction. Jonah was thrown overboard and then swallowed by a great fish, which eventually vomited him onto the shores of Nineveh. Finally, reluctantly, Jonah did what God had called him to do. The result was the greatest revival in human history.

Maybe something has happened to you lately that has caught your attention, and you don't know why it is happening. Could it be that God has allowed this in your life as a wake-up call?

This man who was born blind had his world rocked by Jesus. In a moment, everything changed for him. God is still in the life-changing business. The same Jesus who changed this man can change you. He can forgive you of all your sin. What you need to do is come to him.

Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.

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Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, with campuses in Riverside and Irvine, California.

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