It has long been acknowledged that the problem of suffering is that which atheists and infidels use as their “proof” that God does not exist. Just a few weeks ago, one of our national newscasts had a segment dealing with tragedies and catastrophic illness or accidents as being the reason why some have given up their belief in God. Some, on that program, said that dealing with such unpleasantness caused them to cease to believe in God. Their wonder was, “Why did God let this happen?”
The basis of this is highly selfish on man’s part, for it says this, “I only believe in God if He performs according to my expectations.” In the Old Testament, Naaman was on the verge of rejecting the healing God had for him because of his own expectations as to how God would act (2 Kings 5:11-12). What kind of audacity is this that puts man in the position of being the creature that replies to the Creator, and refuses to believe unless the Creator performs to the whim and fancy of man? Does the creature thus reply to the Creator? (Rom. 9:20).
There are two or three considerations in this general area:
1) Man was made a creature of free will action. This means that man has the freedom to do wrong, if he chooses. It means, then, that he can be guided by evil motives and even make a move against me or my family; he can bring great hurt and sorrow to me, if he so desires. It is not that God is guiding him; rather he is not letting God guide him, and that’s why his sinfulness has touched me. The drunken driver runs over and kills a little child. It happens because we have freedom of will.
2) Men can suffer because they violate the natural laws God has made. They may do this intentionally, or they may do this accidentally. In either case, the great hurt and sorrow can be brought upon men because of it. A man working 150 feet in the air can make an error of judgment and fall to his death. It was not that God caused it to be, but through accidental circumstances, a natural law of God was breached and sorrow is the result.
3) Men can suffer because they violate man made laws, brought into being within the will of God. We think now of civil powers, ordained of God (Rom. 13), and in violation of these one might well suffer heavy penalty, even to be put to death. There is hurt to him, and hurt to his family. Why did God let it happen? Again, God did not cause it; man has freedom of will and can use it to his own hurt, and hurt to those around him.
4) Men can suffer simply due to the imperfection in this world, brought to such a state because of sin. The whole of creation has been given life, and some of that—having good purpose in some cases, can have an evil produce when it touches a man. Hence, the matter of disease, infection, illness. There are those circumstances of an accidental nature that happen when natural laws react in an unusual fashion. That is one price we pay in living in a sinful world–and a world made so by man’s misbehavior!
In sum, an imperfect world is a reality. God uses it as a training ground, suiting man for eternity with Him. Rather than giving up faith in seeing imperfection, we should be thankful that some suffering is in the world. If it were not, then Christ would not have suffered for us–and then where would we be?
Again, we say, man proves his own basic selfishness when he overlooks the world made so by his own sin, overlooks purposes that can be served in man facing suffering in this life, overlooks the price to be paid in having freedom of will, overlooks what is involved in living by God’s natural laws–and then declares, “I will not believe in God unless He acts as I want Him to!”