As a pastor and fellow student of God’s Word, I have been asked this question countless times, and of course, I have asked it myself. Thousands of books and sermons have attempted to answer this question, but there is really only one book that’s needed—the Bible. The full answer spans from the front cover to the back. In one sense it’s a simple answer, on the other it’s complex.
Before we dig in, I want to preface this blog post with three thoughts.
First, I want to assure you that this is a very common and normal question, one which every believer wrestles with at one time or another. If you’re struggling with this question at this very moment, let me encourage you that you are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you.
Second, this is also a question that has been pondered for thousands of years and has been addressed extensively in both literature and oratory, so to give a short answer in a blog post may feel insufficient, so please accept this has my humble offering.
Lastly, let me be honest with you up front that the answer to this question doesn't take away the pain, but it does place our pain in perspective.
Now, let’s begin.
God Created a Perfect World Without Suffering or Death
The Bible teaches that the world was created by God in a perfect state, without war, death, murder, sickness, and suffering. We’re told in Genesis 1:31, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”
And at the pinnacle of God's creation was mankind, with the highest level of consciousness, creativity, and will. Genesis 1:27-28 states, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
So God created mankind to be an eternal being, similar to Him, and bestowed a sliver of His authority on mankind by entrusting us with the stewardship of His creation. In other words, we were never created to die, but to live in eternal fellowship with God and to enjoy living in harmony with Him and His creation.
Mankind Was Given a Choice
However, for that fellowship to be genuine, a choice had to be given. So God gave mankind the freedom of choice, and along with the power of choice came the responsibility for the consequence, which God clearly laid out in Genesis 2:16-17, when He said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Notice, the choice between life and death was given to mankind, and according to Genesis chapter 3, mankind chose to disobey God and knowingly accepted the consequence—death.
Suffering and Death Entered the Picture
The result was the curse of death, both physically and spiritually. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.”
And so we live in a broken, fallen world, that is under the curse of sin, and even now mankind still has free will. We collectively still choose to go to war, and murder, and mistreat others, along with countless other horrific acts. But those are not caused by God, none of this was caused by God, from the very beginning it's been caused by man.
Heaven is the Reset Button
And so to save us, God sacrificed Himself through Jesus Christ, so that we could live. Jesus said in John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." This is the very reason that Jesus came to 1) redeem the world and one day in the future 2) judge the world because some will still choose not to believe.
As the saying goes, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and so as descendants of Adam, some still continue to rebel and disobey. But for those who choose life, Heaven awaits.
Heaven will be a reset button, where once again His creation will be perfect, but our choice will have already been made (in this lifetime).
The topic of how God redeems our suffering and uses it for His glory and our growth will be a subject for a future post. For now, just remember, suffering doesn't prove God doesn't exist, it only proves how wicked man's heart is.
I can’t wait for the “former” things, like suffering and death, to be done away with once and for all. How about you?
Did you enjoy this post? If so, please leave a comment below or share it with somebody else!