For as long as we can tell, people have been plagued with the question, why does evil, suffering, pain, sickness, and death exist in the world? This very question is the so-called reason why many insist that the God of the Bible does not exist. Many ponder the question if God exists then why does He not prevent and prohibit all of the seemingly horrendous things that take place day in and day out? Many well-intentioned Christians have sought to answer this question by stating, that evil exists because we live in a fallen and sinful world. While this answer is both true and a seemingly sufficient response to the question, skeptics will still bark back with an argument that goes something like:
A God that allows suffering to continue is either a) not all-powerful and therefore is unable to prevent the suffering; b) not loving because this God has the power to prevent suffering but is unwilling to do so; and/or c) not all-knowing because God only is aware of the suffering after it has already happened and therefore cannot prevent it from taking place.
Christians know full-well that God is loving, for He has sent His Son into the to the world to die so that sinners would be restored unto Him; that He is all-powerful, for He created the universe by speaking it into existence and He presently holds it all together; and that He is all-knowing, for He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, and absolutely nothing is outside of His knowing. So if God is all-powerful, loving, and all-knowing, how do we answer the question concerning the existence of suffering in this world?
Again, suffering exists because of mankind’s sinful rebellion against God. There are consequences for evil behavior, and we all ought to be relieved that due to God’s love He did not determine to utterly destroy His creation at the fall. It would do us well to understand that Mankind is deserving of nothing less than to be sentenced to hell for all eternity. Asking why evil, suffering, pain, sickness, and death exist is not the proper question that we should be concerned with. Instead, we should marvel at the tremendous mercy and grace of God who has not only allowed us to go on living but has sent His Son to bear the punishment that we so richly deserve; while at the same time clothing sinners in His righteousness. It is obvious why suffering and pain exist, our rebellious hearts have brought such calamity upon ourselves. But God being rich in mercy has graciously lavished upon us that which we could never earn, salvation and restoration to our Great God and Savior. So suffering is a result of sin, but it is not as though God does not use our suffering to produce something marvelous. Romans 8:28 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Does this mean that suffering will not befall those who love God? Not at all. But instead, it implies that everything which transpires in the life of a believer, suffering included, is a tool in God’s hands to produce that which is good.
Some of you may be thinking, wait a minute….how can you say that?! How can suffering, sickness, and death produce that which is good? The Word of God declares in James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Suffering, sickness, and death certainly are trials of various kinds that people face while alive here on earth, and James tells us that we are to count those things a joyous occasion in our life. To which you may find yourself responding by thinking, “what?! How can such seemingly disastrous events be considered joyous?!” If we continue reading, James tells us exactly how they are joyous. He states in verses 3-4, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” In essence, trials are a great way to test how genuine our faith in God is. If we truly view Christ as our rock, our fortress, our greatest treasure, our joy, our peace, our deepest delight, and our anchor amidst the most tumultuous of storms, then the trials we face will aid us in activating our faith more readily and drive us into the arms of our great savior. Trials produce steadfastness, which is to say persistent patience and enduring reliance upon the rock of our salvation, Christ Jesus our Lord. It is for this reason that trials ought to be viewed as a good thing, rather than a hindrance to a life in pursuit of happiness. God ought to be our greatest joy in life and trials force us, if our faith is true, to fall before the throne of grace and cling to the gracious God that pulled us up out of the pit. Trials, again, serve to test our claims that Christ is our greatest treasure. For a trial, like that of being diagnosed with cancer, losing a loved one, or any number of life-altering events, will allow for you to either exercise your faith in the risen savior who purchased your life with His blood, or it will allow you to demonstrate just the opposite. Now, this is not to say that it is always easy to rest in Christ and count it all joy when in the midst of a trying and tumultuous time. However, if we belong to Christ, we will inevitably cling to Him as our only true source of joy and comfort amidst the chaos. If you have never read the book of Job I highly recommend that you do, for this book reveals that God not only preserves His people through the most disastrous of times but that He permits such trials to take place as a means of teaching us to trust in His sovereignty. Job learns an incredibly valuable lesson at the end of the book, and for those who have not read it, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Please go read it and see how Job’s life is drastically changed for the better after having faced more trials than most could bear. It is an excellent book, and as one who has recently traversed a series of difficult trials myself, it helps me to remember that in comparison my trials are minimal. Again, trials which may come in the form of suffering, sickness, pain, and death, ultimately serve to draw us ever closer to our great God and Savior. The greatest reward for the one who remains steadfast in this life is that of eternal glory in the presence of God almighty. As James states in the twelfth verse of the first chapter in his epistle:
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
So as the title of the short blog post states, the best way to traverse the many difficult trials of this life is not through denying God’s existence, but through having a heart fully surrendered to Him and His Holy Word.
Pastor Justin Myers is an avid student of God's Holy Word and received his M.Div. in biblical studies from Liberty University School of Divinity. Pastor Justin considers himself a family man who loves his wife and children dearly. He has been married for over nine years and has four children.