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by Jacob Ninan
The question about why an almighty God who also loves us lets us suffer is ancient, coming from as long as man has known this God. Those who believe in gods who are not reputed to be almighty and loving do not ask this. So it is the God of the Christians who faces this question.
However God has not given us a complete answer and we must be prepared to wait till we get to see Him face to face if we need more clarity. But I think God has given us enough answers for our present life, if we are willing to trust Him for the rest of the answers. Many men of God have written long books on this subject, which are helpful for us. But sometimes we are looking for a 'short' answer because we need only that and not a long philosophical or theological discussion. This is what I propose to give here.
When God created man we were different from all other living things He had created till then. He created us 'in His image'. A part of this image is our ability to make choices and to decide what we should do at any time. This is what we call 'free will' even though once we think about it we can understand that it is only 'free' within some limits. But within these limits we do have a freedom to choose. Only God has a free will in a full sense and He also has the ability to do whatever He chooses.
But at this point we must also realise that when God gave man a free will He was at the same time putting a certain conscious limit on His own free will! Now if a man chose to misuse his free will and do evil God is not in a position to stop him without interfering with man's free will! This does not show any weakness or lack of love on His part but just a consequence of man having a free will.
That was exactly where God found Himself when the first man Adam chose to disobey God. God had placed before Adam and his wife Eve a simple choice between fruit from the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were strictly warned not to eat from the second tree because it would result in 'death' for them. Yet when Satan tempted them they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. 'Death' came, with so many of its consequences. The immediate result was spiritual death which broke their fellowship with God. They were 'cursed' with troubles in life with pain and sorrow and struggles for survival. When Adam sinned, as the designated ruler of the whole world, the whole world also came under the curse and everything became out of tune and harmony. Sicknesses, famines, epidemics, natural disasters, etc., began to affect the world and the people in the world, finally resulting in physical death also.
Now when we suffer, it is usually the result of one of three things. If we do wrong and suffer as a result, that will explain some of our suffering. We may also suffer directly or indirectly as the result of some other human being doing wrong. For example a man may attack us, a drunken driver may hit us or our parents may get divorced and we get to suffer. The third way of suffering comes because we are living in a sin-corrupted earth. This causes sicknesses, pollution, earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, etc.
If we ask why a loving God allows these things to happen there are two parts to the answer. The first part is that if He intervened He would be taking away man's free will. The second part is that He uses 'evil' things that happen to us to do us good in the ultimate sense.
After '9/11' many people asked, "If God is loving and almighty why did He do this?" First of all it was not God who did it but some evil men who had planned and carried it out. But if we ask the more reasonable question, "Why did God allow this to happen?" the obvious answer is that He did not want to interefere with those evil men's free will, and He was going to turn the situation into 'good' for many people, as many as those who would seek Him.
What is this 'good' that God wants to achieve through this suffering?
That is the ultimate desire of God for all people, that we would turn away from our sins, turn to Him for salvation and become transformed into His character.
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