This is the first part of the article answering the question, “What kind of suffering from God’s perspective does He allow?” It is part of the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?”
Suffering is a problem for everyone. A child is born blind, deformed or mentally afflicted; and the question is: Why? The child has done no harm. A good man or woman is racked with pain from a hopeless disease and we ask: Why?
How many kinds of suffering are there? The specific answer is likely answered by the number of people in the world. Every person suffers to a certain extent, although we see many who suffer in greater ways than others.
Jesus declared that we would suffer tribulation in the world (John 16:33), so the question is how to categorize suffering in a way to understand it. This chapter seeks to look at suffering from God’s perspective as He looks down on planet earth. The previous chapter looked at various categories from man’s perspective for a horizontal view.
In order to simplify the categories, let’s assemble the kinds of suffering into four groupings into which suffering can be categorized. This is not meant to sound clinical, that is intellectual only, because the pain is sorrowful, personal and real no matter what the category! Yet, looking at suffering in more depth can bring objectivity and eventual healing if it is arranged in these ways. These four categories are moral evil, natural evil, demonic evil and divine discipline (or punishment).
Moral evil is suffering which develops between men. It is the evil that results from a choice someone made. Sometimes the suffering comes by self-inflicted actions, because ever since Adam, we have been our own worst enemies. For example, Adam chose against God, David, enjoying the kingly luxury, killed a man to cover his sin, Jonah ran the opposite direction of God’s command and Judas tried to take matters into his own hands. We often create our own misery.
But moral evil often comes from sinful actions of others against us, which God would never cause or endorse. For example, robbers beat up Paul (2 Cor. 11:26); David violated Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:4); Hosea’s wife Gomer ran off and played the prostitute against her marriage (Hos. 3:1); Pharaoh and Herod both murdered innocent male babies (Ex. 1:22; Matt. 2:16). It might be the sting of the tongue (Job 5:21) or the death chambers of a vicious dictator. It may be the indifference or lack of care needed from a spouse or the attack from an anonymous assailant. The Apostle Paul wrote, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23 NKJ) No one is righteous like God, for we all fall short of His perfect righteousness and glory and do not seek after Him as Paul wrote,
10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” (Rom. 3:10-11 NKJ)
And because we do not seek after God, our sin separates us from God as Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death [spiritual separation from God]...” (Rom. 6:23 NKJ) David experienced this wrath because of King Saul’s turbulent jealously in seeking to kill David. Samuel wrote, “Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul’s presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night.” (1 Sam. 19:10 NKJ) The conflict could have escalated; however, man can choose not to seek vengeance. David had a chance to strike Saul in the cave, but he pitied him (as the Lord’s anointed) and said to him, “As the proverb of the ancients says, `Wickedness proceeds from the wicked.’ But my hand shall not be against you.’” (1 Sam.24:13 NKJ) Moral evil occurs in many different ways. It is a choice. Any descendant of Adam, which includes the entire human race, will suffer moral evil.
The tyranny of man and war atrocities have imposed tremendous pain, torture and death. Countless lives have been snuffed out as a result of terrorism, hijacking and brutal leaders.
The wicked are not always devilish looking or acting. They often come across as “religious” and “good.” The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were like this as Jesus declared, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank You that I am not like other men– extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11 NKJ) Some of the worst forms of moral evil have come from those in spiritual leadership, whether leaders in the Crusades, popes oppressing their people, cultish leaders like Jim Jones, witch doctors of the African continent, Imams of Islam, or even Protestant pastors who abuse their position for personal aggrandizement and power. Their self-righteousness labels them as “white-washed tombstones” (Matt. 23:27; Acts 23:3).
God is against this evil and is not responsible for it. God has given free-will to mankind, which allows man the choice of moral evil. James described the corruption of the sin nature,
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (Jam. 1:13-15 NKJ)
Yet there is also spiritual warfare influence fomenting rebelliousness among man as Paul noted, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12 NKJ, see below for demonic evil)
And during time, suffering happens, because we live. Accidents happen because of carelessness, operator error, lack of training and sometimes pure selfishness. Passenger airplanes crash, trains derail, highway accidents during snow and ice storms are common, oil rigs explode, ships sink, hazardous chemical spills contaminate the air and ground water and forest fires destroy lives and homes. Natural evil occurs because we are not living in the Garden of Eden, that is, because sin exists in the world and things are not and will not be perfect until Jesus returns.
Part two will be posted tomorrow.