Why Does God Allow The Innocent To Suffer?
When an innocent child suffers and then dies, such as with the case of David and Bathsheba’s first child (2 Samuel 12:13-24), the parents are often given sympathetic answers from people who mean well. But most of the clichés that are offered up give little real comfort. The idea that he has gone on to a better place still does not answer as to why the child had to suffer and die in the first place. It does not explain why the one’s left behind now have to suffer grief and loss. The idea that many express that it was just his time or that it was God’s will is just plain false.
The inadequacy of this answer was well illustrated on the day that John F. Kennedy Jr. died. That evening, Billy Graham was being interviewed by Larry King, and the subject of Mr. Kennedy’s premature death arose. When asked what he thought of it, Billy Graham answered with the tired old cliché, that it was just his time; that it was just God’s will. Larry King then answered and said, “Do you mean to tell me that God wanted him to die?” Billy Graham said not a word. Mr. King saw through the hypocrisy of Billy Graham’s statement immediately. When “Christians” like Billy Graham contradict themselves about the nature of God, it fuels the fires of the controversy over the presence of evil in the world. To say that God wills for any person to suffer and die is to ascribe evil intent on the part of God.
This has been heard for centuries. Gideon in Judges 6 first made it. If God is so good, why does He let bad things happen to us? Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able to do so? If so, then He is impotent. Is it that He is able, but not willing? If so, then He is not all good. Or, is He willing but unable? Then why follow Him? James H. Dee, a retired classicist, wrote an article entitled Good God Is a Virtual Contradiction in Terms. This title sums up one of the main arguments made by those who try to deny God’s existence. They say that if God is all knowing, then He is aware of evil in the world. And if He were all-powerful, then He would put a stop to evil in the world. And if He really loved man, the apex of His creation, then He would eliminate all pain and suffering from the world.
Since God is an omniscient, omnipotent, merciful God who loves man and seeks his best interest, then why does He allow the innocent to suffer? First, note that God created man with free-will moral agency out of His great love for us. With free moral agency came the freedom to choose whether to obey or to disobey God’s word. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and a result God sent them from the garden into the world and allowed them to be exposed to pain and suffering. Ultimately, all pain and suffering resulted from man’s sin. All of humankind has to suffer because of their sin.
Once man was sent from the garden into in the world, he became subject to three avenues of exposure to pain and suffering. First, we often suffer as Job did, not because of our own sin, but because of the sins of others. Also, we can suffer because of our own sins. Sometimes in committing fornication, a person contacts a venereal disease. Often people suffer debilitating injuries when the consume alcohol and run into a telephone pole. And finally we can suffer an accident or as a result from natural forces. For instance, a faithful Christian can loose all that he owns, even lose his loved ones simply because they were in the path of a hurricane.
Having noted the causes of pain and suffering, the question remains. Why does God allow these three avenues to exist? The first two avenues are in the world because sin is in the world. Part of the reason sin still exists is because of God’s mercy. That may sound like a contradiction, but the fact remains that if God did not want all men to have the possibility of salvation He would destroy all who commit sin, thus eliminating sin from the world. If God did not delay punishment on sinners and give them the opportunity to repent then there would be no one left alive past the age of accountability. The third avenue exists because God created the forces of nature and set them into motion. As long as the world lasts these natural forces will affect all of mankind.