I  An apologetic/intellectual problem.

II  A human problem.


I  Pain and Suffering: an apologetic problem.


Agnostic says:    God is completely good and all-powerful.

Given the pain and suffering in the world, this cannot be true.  He could be either:


A.  All-powerful, but certainly not completely good.     Or

B.  Completely good, but certainly not all-powerful.


This may be the single most common/significant apologetic question


Kinds of suffering


a.  Are they God??s ??fault???

b.  Are they bad/evil?       (if not, then the argument above goes away)


1. Pain, broken bones, chronic pain, burns, etc.

2. Disease, both acute and chronic.  Cancer, lupus, leprosy, heart disease, malaria,

3. Broken relationships

4. Poverty, hunger, etc.

5. Violence, terrorism, genocide, violent crime, political crimes.

6. Chronic fear.    (point 5. above, rape, natural disasters, failure, etc.)

7. Disappointment, feelings of failure, loss of hope, loss of job.

8.  Death of a loved one, bereavement, mourning.


A very serious question:  What is the cause of all this suffering?


Is it a lack of power on God??s part?

Is it because God is not loving and good?


A strong caution here:  There is no simple answer.




A.  FREE WILL.    Note: the phrase ??free will?? is not in the Bible.


Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (exp 19-20)  Now choose life.

Joshua 24:15   Choose today??

John 7:17   If anyone chooses to do God??s will??


A loving God gave us a choice.  Would you prefer the alternative?  (not living, or being a robot)


God is loving enough and powerful enough to give us a choice to love or hate,
to do good or to do evil.


God took a huge risk.  Why? Because he loves us. 




The vast majority of all suffering can be attributed to human choice to sin.


??  addiction, lack of self-control

??  sexual perversion and abuse

??  anger, violence

??  greed

??  pride, arrogance, jealousy, desire for control, power

??  selfishness


God??s moral law, which cannot be violated, says such sins cause suffering,
both to the perpetrator and to the victim of such sin. 


Ezekiel 18:4f   vs    Exodus 20:5


Q: Does the existence of these things prove that God is evil or powerless?


Be extremely careful to use the sin card.   As a general rule, do not tell a suffering
person that it is because of their sin.


Do not judge.  Consider Job    

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar:  You are suffering because you sinned!!

Job:  not true.  I am righteous.      Who was right?   Neither, but on suffering, Job was right.

Another note about Job:  God never explained to him why he suffered. 




There are natural physical laws, just as there are natural moral laws.


The laws of nature which allow us to live have, have as a side effect human


1.  Without plate tectonics, no advanced life on the earth.  Look at Mars.  Are earthquake
s evil? 

2.  Weather distributes energy almost evenly across the earth, waters the land,
etc.  No weather, no storms, no hurricanes.  Are floods and storms evil?

3.  Diseases.  Without bacteria, we would be dead.   Even genetic mutation is part
of God??s plan to cause adaptation and evolution.  Is disease evil?

4.  Much suffering due to ??natural causes?? is really the result of either
human unwisdom (putting it nicely) or greed.  Ex:  Living in a flood plain, destroying
the environment, etc.






Touch burner, Leprosy, Full stomach, Broken bone.

A tiny proportion are born without ability to feel pain. A tragedy.

Pain is good

Pain prevents wrong behavior.

This is even true with emotional pain.




Who said death is evil?

Isaiah 57:2  God takes them away to spare them of evil.

Phil 1:21   For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Death is not (inherently) evil, because it is not the end.  Atheist: in view of
death, life is futile.  Truth:  Death makes life precious, including suffering.




1.  Psalm 30:5  Weeping may endure for the night.  No suffering = no joy.

2. John 9:1-3  ??that the work of God might be displayed.

3. Romans 8:28  (Virtually) all evil can be used by God, ultimately, for good. (but
this does not make evil good!!)

4. Romans 5:3  suffering ??  character, hope    James 1:2-3  trials  ??  lack nothing spiritually.   
?Suffering is a principle way we become like Christ.  Even the world recognizes this.

5.  Suffering is the natural result of doing good.  1 Peter 2:20, 2 Tim 3:12.

6. Coll 1:24-29  share in Christ??s suffering (so that others might come to Christ)  Luke
?9:23  In suffering we share with Jesus.  Phil 3:10.

7. Through shared suffering, we have close relationships


Part II   Suffering: a human problem.


Our response to suffering depends on our world-view.


Hindu, Buddhist.   This world is an illusion (maya).  Suffering is an illusion.  Avoid suffering by escaping
from this world.  

Muslim.   Fate.  It is God??s will.  There is nothing I can or should do about it.

Atheism.   USSR20 million.  China  30 million  Pol Pot 2 million    The individual does not matter,
so suffering is not important.

Christian:   This world is very real and God cares about suffering.   Micah 6:8  Jame
s 1:27       Compassion


God understands suffering is a problem for us.  He wants us to be open about this..


Psalm 73:1   But as for me??.

Hab 1:2-4   How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen.

Jeremiah 12:1    I would speak with you about your justice.

Even Jesus!  My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? If there is any way you can
take this cup from me??


Believe it or not, God can relate.  That is part of why Jesus came.

2 Cor 5:17     Heb 2:17-18     Heb 4:15


What is your response to suffering?

What am I willing to do about suffering?

Am I making a difference?

Am I part of the solution?


If you want to know God??s response to suffering, look at Jesus!!!  John 11:35  Matthew 23:37
  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to
you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers
her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.


Let??s work on physical suffering, but emotional suffering is far more devastating.


What not to do:


1. Teach people to avoid suffering.

2. Tell people suffering is good for them.

3. Tell people (only) to pray about it.

4. Tell people it is their fault. (Job)


What to do:


Like Job, live with integrity despite your own suffering.

Empathy.  Our suffering will allow us to help others come to Christ, and to
alleviate suffering in general.

People do not want answers, they want understanding/empathy.


Forgive, actively fight poverty, prevent accidents, avoid polluting, help stop
crime, fight addiction.


The key is not the intellectual answer to suffering and evil.  The key is having
the heart of Jesus toward those who suffer, both physically and emotionally.


John Oakes



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