“Something is terribly wrong with this world. Where’s God in all of this?” If you’ve ever heard these questions, or wondered them yourself, then this article is for you.
It is hard to deny that the world we live in is broken. Terribly broken. We are constantly bombarded with news of senseless shootings and terrorist attacks. Wars continue without end. Natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods claim many lives each year. Despite our wonderful modern medical technology, thousands and thousands of people die every year of cancer, stroke, diabetes, or some severe infection.
Beyond this, we see greed, poverty, abuse, jealously, racism, and seemingly every possible manifestation of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. It’s an ugly picture. This world is broken and can’t seem to find its way.
So where is the all-knowing, loving Creator God in the midst of all this pain and suffering?
Many people think death and suffering are reasons to deny the very existence of God. They contend that a good God would not, could not, allow all these horrible things to continue. If He exists, if He is indeed a good God, would He not want to stop all these things? Therefore, they reason, God cannot exist. Sometimes they hedge their bets by adding that if He does exist, He cannot be a good God because He continually allows bad things to happen to good people.
Ultimately, though, this is faulty logic. Let’s think it through.
If God does not exist, how do we explain the physical world around us? If there is no God who created the universe, then where did everything come from? The world’s simple answer is that everything came from nothing. Matter just popped into existence from nowhere. Then over billions of years molecules randomly collided, resulting in the formation of planets and stars and galaxies.
From this lifeless matter sprang life. The first simple cell just assembled itself. Then through random mutation and natural selection (survival of the fittest), life forms became more and more complex until ultimately man came into being. This is called evolution.
No God. Nothing but chemicals banging together over millions of years.
In a universe that is merely the result of random chemical reactions over millions of years, there would be no “god” to whom we are accountable. But in such a universe, a universe without an ultimate moral authority, how are right and wrong, good and bad, determined? In the final analysis, how are moral judgments made? Who decides? The answer is, everybody decides for himself or herself what is right and wrong.
Charles Darwin understood this. In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “A man who has no assured and ever-present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for the rule of his life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.” So in a universe without God, morality is up for grabs. Everybody gets to set his or her own moral standards.
When people deny the existence of God because of all the death and suffering they see, they have a problem. Even if evolution were true, the world is still broken. So if you can’t blame God, then whom do you blame?
To truly understand this problem, we have to go back to the beginning.
You see, most people think they themselves are good, or at least better or more deserving than the many bad people they see around them. Therefore, they reason, it is unfair that bad things happen to them. Often they also say it is unfair that bad things happen to others they think are good or innocent.
However, without God, these same people have no basis for determining good and bad other than their own opinion. Further, it is inconsistent to claim that people are basically good and then complain about the death and suffering humans inflict on each other. After all, wouldn’t that mean that good people are suffering at the hands of other basically good people?
People are generally quick to make God a scapegoat. He gets the blame for everything from cancer to murder to tsunamis. If the suffering we see is evidence that God is cruel or unfair, then why isn’t the good we see equally evidence that God is loving and just? After all, we see lots of good in the world. Children are rescued from burning buildings, people donate organs to strangers, food banks feed the homeless, volunteers work in nursing homes, and the list goes on.
It seems people never take the blame. Just the credit.
Yes, it is obvious that there is suffering in the world, but God is not to blame. Whose fault is it then? Quite simply, it is our fault. The world is broken because of our sin. Most people fail to factor this into the equation.
To truly understand this problem of death and suffering, we have to go back to the beginning. We have to go back to Genesis. In Genesis 1:1 we read, “
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God is the Creator. All things were created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).
God created everything in six days. On the sixth day, He created man. “
Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). So man is not just the result of chemical reactions over millions of years. Man is made in God’s image.
At the end of the sixth day of Creation Week, God completed His creative activity. It was a perfect creation. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
In this perfect paradise, man and the animals were given plants to eat. Yes, we were originally vegetarian. “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food’ ” (Genesis 1:29).
Why is this important? It is very important because animals did not kill each other for food. People did not kill animals for food. In the beginning, in this perfect paradise, there was no animal death.
In the perfect paradise, God was in control, just as He is today. He was in authority, and He established rules. Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘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’” (Genesis 2:16–17).
So Adam and Eve were given a choice. Obey and live. Disobey and die.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).
Man’s sin brought death and suffering into the world. God’s perfect creation was broken. “
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22).
Sin has broken our world. The pain, suffering, and death that we see are the results of that sin. Man chose to disobey, and the suffering we see and experience is a consequence of that rebellion against our Creator.
Many people ask, “Why doesn’t God just wipe away all evil?” Well, God certainly could take away all evil, but in the process we would be gone along with it. After all, we are not good. We are all sinners. Every person descended from Adam and Eve. Each one of us has a sinful nature and has sinned by breaking God’s rules.
We are all sinners. It is our rebellion that broke God’s creation and brought suffering into the world. Sin must be judged. That is just and right.
However, our God is not only the righteous Judge, He is also a God of love. Even before the foundation of the world, God had a plan.
Jesus Christ would be born into this world that we might be redeemed. He would be that perfect sacrifice and take our sin upon Himself on the Cross at Calvary. He defeated death so we could spend eternity in heaven if we repent of our sin and put our faith and trust in Him.
Yes, our world is broken. The trials and suffering we experience often seem too much to bear. But our time on earth is just the blink of an eye compared to an eternity in heaven.
The groaning of the world around us and the grief that afflicts each of us is an ever-present reminder of the horrible price of sin. But Jesus Christ paid that price on the Cross and rose from the dead in victory. Never forget the hope that we have in Christ.
A God of Suffering? by Dr. Tommy Mitchell
Month after month the world witnesses hurricanes, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, tsunamis, and myriad other life-shattering events. It is quite understandable, therefore, that men and women demand a logical answer to the question, “Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?” That question is answered in this DVD.
The eruption of Mount Saint Helens in the 1980s changed how we view catastrophe; on its thirty-fifth anniversary, we examine what we’ve learned since then.Browse Issue Subscribe
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.