Have you ever driven in heavy fog and you can’t see anything in front of you? For me, besides just pulling off the road and giving up, my only hope is for the fog to lift or someone to pull in front of me with fog lights that knows where they are going! Then I can see their tail lights dimly and I can follow them!
In a similar way, that’s how our understanding of why there’s pain and suffering in this world works. We may not be able to make out all the peripheral answers in terms of why. They still may be enshrouded by our limited ability to understand. But there are some key biblical truths that are illuminated to us through scripture. I want to share three. And if we keep our eyes on those three points of light – just like the taillights– I believe they will take us to a place of understanding where our hearts and our minds can be satisfied.
1. Evil and suffering are NOT GOD’S doing.
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” I John 1:5
The Bible says a lot about God’s character and one thing he is not is evil.
Another common question: “Why didn’t God create a world where there was no evil and suffering in the first place?”
And the answer to that is, He did. Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that He made and it was very good.” So here’s the question. If God is not the author of evil and suffering and if what He created is good, then where did it come from in the first place? The answer to that has to do with the fact that God, in His wisdom, decided to give human beings free will. Why did He give us free will? Because the greatest value in the universe is love: To love God and to love other people. Love is the highest value. And the only way that highest value of love can really be attained is if we have free will. Then we can make the choice to love or not to love because true love must involve a choice
When our youngest daughter Danielle was born, a friend gave us this little stuffed dog that was programmed to say her name. It would say, “I love you Danielle.” Petty clever, but does that stuffed dog really love Danielle? No, it’s programmed to say it. It has no choice. It must say it. So it’s not love.
For me to really express love I must be able to make that choice. I must be able to make the choice NOT to love in order for my expression of love to be true. And God, knowing this, created a world in which He gave human beings that free will. The problem is we’ve abused that free will and we’ve rejected God. And we’ve walked away from Him. This is why we meet on Sunday’s to encourage you to choose Christ. Choose to KNOW him in a relationship. It’s our choices:
2. If Evil is Not from God, Then, why does Evil exist?
a. Because of OUR CHOICES.
Have you ever made a choice that hurt you or someone else? I have! Our choices cause problems.
God tells us to “choose” over _200_ times.
When God gave Moses the precepts his people were to live by he reminded them:
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live Deuteronomy 30: 19
God is begging us to choose life for ourselves and our children! What is your choice? Follow God or not? I’m tired of making the wrong choices, I have decided to follow Jesus.
It’s why we have church and teach the bible. We can learn about the right choices and with God’s help make them. Its why we have Growth Groups. Sign ups are now! To sign up go to http://ridgefellowship.com/growth-groups. Get involved with a group of people, be encouraged to choose right for your family, marriage, kids. Learn the bible and how to make choices that honor God.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” Isaiah 53:6
We’ve all done things out of our free will that have resulted in hurt to ourselves and to other people. I read recently, I believe it was from author Lee Strobel who estimated that 95% of the suffering in this world is the result of bad choices from us or other people. For example, people look at the famines that take place in Africa and say, “Where’s God in all this?” People are dying of starvation. How does He allow this famine to take place?
The truth of the matter is we produce enough food on this planet to give every man, woman and child three thousand calories a day. But it’s because of our own selfishness our own irresponsibility, corruption and misplaced nationalism that people are starving when there is plenty of food in the world to go around.
Another way to look at this is to consider your hand. You can say, “I can either take this hand and pick up a gun and shoot and kill someone or I can take this very same hand and feed someone who’s starving to death.” It’s my choice. But it isn’t really fair if I pick up a gun and shoot someone and then say, “Why does God allow evil and suffering? Why is there evil in this world.” You’ve made the choice to pick up the gun and pull the trigger. It’s like the old cartoon: “We’ve seen the enemy and he is us.”
b. The second reason we have evil is because of the ENEMY’S INFLUENCE.
Who is the enemy? He is called “Satan” in Hebrew- to slander or “Diabolos” in Greek – to slander. We’ll have an entire message coming up on Satan in the coming weeks, but quickly, he’s a liar and was from the beginning. In Genesis we read about “the fall of mankind.’ It was a combination of the enemy’s lie and our bad choice.
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5
Sin is not completely Satan’s fault. We are still held accountable for our choices. He just makes the bad look good.
His plan is to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) What the enemy does is become a parasite of what is good. Think of something good like sex: God created it to be great and it is. But what the enemy does is twist something good like sex into evil: Rape, abuse, prostitution, pornography, affairs, broken hearts, venereal diseases addictions and the list goes on.
Where did he come from? We learn from the scriptures: He was a created being, an angel. He is not God or equal to God. God gave him a choice and he chose to rebel. God removed him from heaven and he lives on earth. The prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah describe these truths about our enemy:
“You were anointed as a guardian cherub. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. So I threw you to the earth;” Ezekiel 28:14-17
“How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer! You have been cast down to the earth! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:12-14
*So let’s make one thing really clear as we begin this exploration. God is not the author of evil and suffering. It is true that He created a world with the potential for evil and suffering to take place. Why? Because it was the only way He could create a world with free will so that the greatest value of love could be experienced by you and me.
Some people say, “Couldn’t God have foreseen that this was going to happen? That people would rebel against Him. That the enemy would influence people to chose wrongly? Couldn’t He have seen that in advance?” The answer to that is, “of course.” So why did He go ahead and create things?
I think the answer is, using an analogy, is like you being a parent. Niki and I have three. When you were pregnant may probably knew that there was a very real possibility that your child would endure suffering in their life, some pain, some hardship. They will have some disappointments in life, some failures in life. They may even reject you. They may reject you as a parent – walk away from you and cause great hurt to you. And yet knowing the very real possibility of that you went ahead and had kids anyway. Why did you do it? Because you also knew there was also the very real possibility the potential for tremendous joy and a loving relationship and a deep meaning in that relationship that you would have with your child. If you knew the problems and pain would be a part of life would you have that child anyway? I would and did!
And the same thing is true with God. He knew that we would rebel against Him. But He also knew that many people would choose to follow Him, would choose to love others, would choose to spend eternity with Him in heaven. And it was all worth it for those people even though it meant for Him the suffering and the death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross.
In the next post we’ll wrap up with the last point of light, until then,
For more about the series, Great Questions, go to www.RidgeFellowship.com