Why Does God Allow It?

Unjust Suffering

Why does God allow bad things to happen to people? This is often the first question which comes to mind after a disaster. The Lord reigns, but how he goes about reigning baffles us at times. One of the books of the Bible, the book of Job, is an example of this question coming into play. A man who was relatively good and righteous even in God's sight suddenly has all kinds of disasters happen to him. And though these came from the hand of the devil, yet Job recognized that as the Lord reigns it is He who has allowed such things. In humility he confesses, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Job 13:15 Before disaster overtook his wife, she said, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"  He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Job 2:9,10 But as time wore on and he became inflicted in his flesh, though he never cursed God, yet he did question God's justice in the matter. God corrected him later saying, "Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?" Job 40:8 For those with doubts, give God the benefit of the doubt. There are bigger things behind all that happens, of which we may not be aware. Job for example didn't realize that what he was going through was for his benefit to show what a great guy he was. Afterwards God greatly rewarded Job for the performance he did manage and even answered his prayer which he prayed while afflicted saying, "Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!". For God recorded his words in the Bible.

So also we have the words of King David, loved of God, but who cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?" Psalm 22:1 These are the words which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, also pronounced on the cross, identifying with that Psalm written 1000 years before his crucifixion. If we continue in the Psalm we notice that it is characterized by a spirit of trusting in God in the midst of trouble. "Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed." Ps 22:3-5 In fact the last 10 verses of the Psalm are rather upbeat.

It is not that Jesus was actually in despair. For he was well aware of the purpose of his impending death of which he had already prayed about the previous night and of which he had previously spoken of to his disciples. But much of the Psalm is messianic and contains details of his death pointing to him as the Messiah. Beyond this I think he also provided an answer to those who suffer unjustly - that they should continue to trust God. If God did not spare his own Son, neither may he spare the rest of us. In fact the New Testament perspective is that enduring in faith in the midst of unjust suffering is virtuous and even enhances our faith. "So then, those who suffer according to Godís will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." 1Peter 4:19

Discipline and its benefits

Another possible purpose behind the suffering is discipline. "You have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 'My son, do not make light of the Lordís discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.' Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?" Hebrews 12 :4-7 And as with parents raising children there is discipline which is corrective, being punishment; and there is discipline which is preventative, being a warning. As children trust parents in the midst of being subjected to such disciplines, so we should trust God being likewise subjected to His disciple for our own good. "Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Heb 12:9-11

For example we have Paul who writes, "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." 2Cor 1:8,9

Is God too Cruel?

The Paradigm of "Parent"

However the paradigm of God as a "parent" may come under criticism when we consider the question as to whether a loving parent would subject their children to the kind of suffering or dangers which children of God have been subjected to. God told Abraham to kill his son, for example. To which Abraham complied, though God prevented him in the final moment from carrying it out. Yet God did subject his only begotten Son, Jesus, to circumstances leading to a painful and humilating death. But then again he was a willing sacrifice, well aware of what was to come. But regardless, is God being too cruel to be reckoned a loving Father?

I think the paradigm of "parent" is still appropriate and consistent if we increase our vision of the circumstances as much as God is greater than an earthly father, and what is spiritual is much greater than what is material. For example things that are material are temporary. Things which are spiritual are eternal.

The example of death

From an earthly perspective death, for example, is the end. But spiritually death is just a doorway into a new beginning. From a spiritual perspective people live forever. But it is ordained that their earthly life will end at some point. That's just a part of human existence. Who has the right to determine that time? It is not the right of earthly parents, nor is it the right of the individual, but it certainly is God's right. An earthly equivalent may be when a parent decides it's time for their child to go to sleep. And in fact the metaphor between death as a spiritual sought of sleeping is something Jesus often spoke of, even as he spoke of his friend Lazarus being asleep when he was actually dead. In their death God is simply putting his children to sleep for a time. Not that he is callous about it.  "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."  Psalms 116:15 People complaining about some dying young is like children arguing over bed time.

A similar perspective on suffering

So also just as parents need not explain why they've chosen their children to go to bed at a certain time, or why they have certain rules and regulations for their children, so also it shouldn't be expected of God to always explain his actions. We should trust and obey for there's no other way to live at peace with God and fulfill our role as God has ordained of us. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."Micah 6:8  And as we've seen above in Hebrews 12 God disciplines us as children. But as death is analogous to sleep, shouldn't we also allow or accept that the kind of suffering which would be analogous to the discipline we receive from parents to be likewise more extreme when we receive it from God our Father?

Being too earthly and materialistically minded we tend to measure suffering too much in earthly terms. It is not that the suffering has little value in God's eyes. Quite the contrary, much of the suffering here has much more value than the earthly-minded even realize. Christ's death on the cross for example paid the penalty for the sins of the world. But the degree of suffering we face seems lessened as we gain a spiritual perspective. Think you've got problems? Consider Paul's suffering of which he writes in comparison to other Christian workers saying, "I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."2Cor 11:23-28  And yet he also writes, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18 God has a way of consoling his people who suffer. "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:5

It should not be so important what happens to us. More important is how we react to it.

2 Corinthians 7:9  now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.

Reasons Why

Lastly I would like to consider some reasons why God allows bad things to happen. This is of course not comprehensive, but rather just to help to open up the thinking of the shortsighted.

Genesis 50:20  "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

In this case Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, but ultimately God used it to deliver Jacob's family from the famine. This is not to justify evil deeds, but rather to show that God may use them to accomplish a greater good. Those who do evil will of course be punished, but beyond that at first it may seem that no good can come out of an evil act. But hindsight is often 20/20 and thus after some time one may imagine scenarios whereby we would be worse off in the present if this or that hadn't happened.

There's also suffering due to our own sinfulness. Jeremiah writes, "Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins?  Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: "We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven. "You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us; you have slain without pity. You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through. You have made us scum and refuse among the nations. "All our enemies have opened their mouths wide against us. We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction."Lam 3:39-47 But also "The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;" Lam 3:25

Here's a very interesting example which incorporates a spiritual concept about death which may be far from the earthly minded: 2Kings 22:18-20 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ĎThis is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.í

Essentially this is saying, "Because you are pleasing to the Lord therefore I have good news! You're going to die soon!" And while this may be baffling to some, at times we see the same attitude cropping up throughout the Bible, such as when Paul says, "to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;" Php 1:21-23 The righteous have good inheritance to look forward to after death, secure and free from earthly concerns. And God may take them away quickly to spare them from impending evil. Isaiah 57:1 "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil."

There are many reasons why God allows bad things to happen, some of which we can read of in the Bible, and some of which we might guess or imagine, and some of which we can't comprehend. But in the end our reaction comes down to pride versus humility. It's either IN GOD WE TRUST, or our trust is in someone or something else.

The Attack on the World Trade Center

Throughout the world Islam has been showing its true colors - its fruit - in the form of oppression and violence against non-Muslims for illegitimate reasons, but the attack on America has brought this particularly to light. Immediately after the attack Muslims around the world from Palestine to China praise the terrorists and mocked the victims of this incident. But to their shame and humilation they had to quickly change their tone as they suddenly realized that this bloodthirsty act of injustice would be a poor reflection on Islam. But even now the same bloodthirsty murdering attitude has surfaced and I think will continue to surface in different areas of the world in reaction against the bringing of Islamic terrorists to justice. Many have humbled themselves falsely and offered false sympathy in order to justify their continue support for terrorism in the name of "Allah". Why is it that it seems only non-Muslims speak against Islamic terrorism, while many Muslims view such criticism as an attack on Islam? Why don't the Muslims stop the terrorists? It's because the Koran teaches, "Never should a Believer kill a Believer" [Koran 4:92] And "Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book (Christians and Jews), until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection." [Koran 9.29] The fact that they've done nothing in the past to stop Islamic terrorists, neither in speech nor in action, but rather have criticized those who take actions to defend against terrorists indicates that Muslims generally don't really view such actions as contrary to their religion.

But now Islam is at a crossroads. Muslims will either have to renounce terrorism or view it as a legitimate part of their Holy War. People ask why God allowed it to happen. But they forget that God may have prevented such things from happening many times in the past. It's amazing that we lasted through the Cold War without a serious nuclear incident for example. But I think God is sick and tired of Islamic terrorism. But neither Muslims nor non-Muslims have been willing to take serious action against it until God allowed the terrorists to succeed in this case. I don't know of any time in history when the vast majority of Muslims have publically denounced Islamic terrorism as we've seen in recent days. Many are of course are doing so falsely in the name of political correctness. But what will be interesting to see after the dust settles and actions have been taken by the US is which crossroad the Islamic community will finally take.

Christianity has had its own crossroads. There were times when Catholics and Protestants committed bloodthirsty violent unjust acts in the name of God. But God brought these to light and that time has past. Now it's Islam's turn to repent.

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