If God Is All-Powerful, Why Is There Suffering?
If one believes that God is all knowing, all loving and all powerful then in this world of unfairness, death and suffering one is left to make strange rationalizations. Some of these rationalizations even make God appear inconsistent and imperfect.
On the other hand if one believes God is all knowing, all loving and all powerful, but out of His love he relinquished some of His power giving Satan the choice to rebel and mankind the choice to surrender to Satan (thereby allowing Satan to take rule of this planet) then the mix of good and bad on this earth makes sense.
—- Not that God relinquished his power but that all of his creatures at all times have always had the full choice to choose to follow God or not. God says that all other ways except for Mine result in death. God states that even breaking the connection to Him results in death. Satan, being the first creature to decide otherwise, says that God kills all who do not follow His way. Manipulation is always more attractive then non-manipulation to those who have not been burned by manipulation. Fantasy is always more attractive than reality.
—-The death of any creature who follows sin does not prove that God is not secretly killing them. The death of God proves that God is the source of death. It shows that sin is a force outside of God that has the ability to kill even God.
The bible teaches that in His divine power, love and knowledge, God provided a way of cleansing, restoration and complete and final irradication of sin. This plan, though somewhat mysterious, appears to involve the following three elements:
1. A need to expose sin for what it is: ugly, unfair, permanent and always resulting in destruction and death including death of the innocent.
2. A need for us to choose either to trust God, love Him, desire to know Him and follow Him under any circumstance or to relinquish control to Satan. Those who chose to relinquish control to Satan will be “blotted out from the Lamb’s book of Life”.
—- The need for us to live in an environment completely free of “manipulation” by God. If God openly committed supernatural activities visible to all, many would remain fearful of God’s power and never have the true opportunity to choose. A similar analogy is like kids still living with their parents who do not have the full freedom to choose. Preventing all bad consequences is a terrible form of manipulation.
3. Future restoration of this planet and our bodies and establishment of a kingdom free from sin and death completely under Christ’s rule.
—- Also the need to balance the scales and intervene at times is needed as well. This lesson that God actively works to prevent death and sin actively works to cause death is often missed as well. Such as in the case with the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Tower of Babel, humanity needs to live in at least partial freedom from itself. When “less than 10 can be found” who are righteous in a city, and 100% of all influences in a city are evil, God acts by removing his people from the evil and judging those who remain. This intervention appears to be the only condition when God acts in a major, social way. When the state of affairs is a mix between good and evil, God waits and lets us see the effect of our actions. This does not mean He does not work on an individual scale or in hidden ways, and it does not mean that all major actions are His. The bible is a flowing narrative of competing actions by man, by God, and by Satan.
Below are some examples of rationalizations that people make for why bad things happen to “good” people. “A” are typical rationalizations made by many people in our society today even those who are deeply religious and well-intentioned. They seem to reflect a somewhat flawed perspective of God and contain inconsistencies that are difficult to resolve on a deeper level. “B” are alternate responses to the same event which reflect a more mature view of the great controversy and better reflect the loving nature of God.
A: “God never gives us anything that we can not handle.”
B: “God always helps us handle anything that Satan gives”
A: “If it is your will, please heal her.”
B: “I know it is not your will for anyone to be ill and suffer. Please bring us comfort and healing through this difficult time and may your name be glorified in the end.”
A: “It was God’s will that I was born with birth defects so that He might be glorified”.
B: “It is God’s will that I live in a way that glorifies Him despite this defective body which has been caused by sin.”
A: “God allowed this to happen, it is part of His plan and He knows what is best”.
B: “Sin caused this to happen and God knows best how to make good things come of it if we allow Him.”
A: “God gave us this retarded child because He knew that this child needed a good home and that we would be loving parents and that this is what we needed for spiritual growth.
B: Satan hurt our child, but God loves us and our child and has provided a way that this tragedy can be used to be a blessing for us and for others. Someday this child, along with all of us who choose to love and serve God, will be restored and be given the life that Satan robbed from us.
—- God also has a completely different viewpoint of what is good for us and what is not good for us than we do ourselves. We focus on our needs, our desires, outward and visible accomplishments. God focuses on developing our character and our spiritual growth. This growth often is but not always tied to our physical health, physical needs, etc. When things impede our ability to see our need for God, he removes them or allows them to be removed. Sometimes we need better health before we see God. Other times we need to be shaken out of the fantasy that we are immortal and invulnerable. Almost all the time the best thing God can do is to step back and let us see the consequences of sin. Suffering in this world is only a speck compared to eternity.
—- We don’t understand the concept of why except on a very primitive level. We always in all areas of life choose whether we trust or distrust something that we don’t understand. When we choose to trust God in things that we don’t understand, our trust is never misplaced and we grow to understand more and more over time. When we choose to trust in anything else, everything else always fails, if that trust is in science, in other people, in other philosophies, etc. This trust is not some sort of supernatural shield. It is only a way for us to grow in understanding without having to continually hit the reset button on our model of the universe.
—- We can experiment and see the results of our following God fruits vs. fruits of sin. We are encouraged to observe the world and look at the results, not the promises, hopes, or stereotypes. If suffering never happened, our weak nature would not be obvious to us.
—- We are in sin only because our world chooses to be. The decisions of everyone around us affect us, and our decisions affect others. Suffering occurs either because we choose sin, others have chosen to sin, or our world’s sinful state makes us susceptible to random chance. If we do not think that this world is in no despicable shape, and we love the world, we will be blind to that third cause of suffering.
—- God creates enmity between choices and works to give opportunities to make future choice. He doesn’t work to insulate us but to strengthen and enlighten us. When all have chosen then God will return. Sin must present evidence of suffering and destruction or we will never ultimately reject it. Following God’s rules under any label gives evidence of stability, growth, and strength that lasts. This never means that on this earth we become immune to the consequences of being in a degraded and weakened state, or immune to the actions of others. God will not artificially coddle us and leave us in this “suffering” state any longer than we need to. We often choose to be blind to some suffering and over-react to other suffering. Nothing in this world is free from suffering until God returns.