By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: If God sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5.43), why does he not send rain to Ethiopia or other drought-stricken areas to alleviate suffering? For what reason or purpose does an all-good all-powerful, loving God allow evil and suffering in this world?
Reply: For centuries man has struggled with the problem of human suffering. When he has tried to solve the problem purely from a philosophical approach, he has come to accept the existence of it solely as a matter of fact. He resolves to live by the old Epicurian philosophy, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die” (which is termed by its modern counterpart Hedonism), which makes pleasure the chief aim or goal in life.
False conclusions are reached because they are based upon false assumptions. For example, some attempt to explain the problem with one assertion, and that is that people always get what they deserve. But this is not always true. Both the righteous and the wicked suffer and both are often blessed. Innocent children sometimes suffer, not because of any fault of their own, but due to sins committed by others. The little boys in Florida who are afflicted with Aids is an example. Job was not made to suffer because of any sin that he committed, although he was accused of sin by his three friends. God blesses all with physical blessings, the righteous and the unrighteous. “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). As both the good and the evil are blessed, so both also suffer disaster; but it is not true that God causes all human suffering. He allows it, but he is not always responsible for it. When men take it upon themselves to blame God for all the suffering in the world, they presume to question his morality, goodness and righteousness.
Why do innocent people suffer? Directly or indirectly, sin is the cause of all human suffering. Children often suffer as the result of someone else’s mistake. For instance, a drunken driver hits a child and kills him. God did not cause the child to die. He was victimized by a drunken driver. While it is true that God has the power to prevent such tragedies from taking place, it is not for us to question God’s operations. God answered Job out of the whirlwind, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2) Or, we can well ask, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:34)
The age old question has been asked repeatedly, why does God allow pain, sickness, suffering and death in the world? Remember that, at the beginning of man’s existence, there were none of these tragedies. Man inhabited the beautiful bowers of Eden where there was no sickness, pain, suffering or death. But man sinned, thus sin entered the world and as a result these things exist. Death came as the result of “sin (Rom. 5:12). Succeeding generations suffer the consequences of sin (the transgression of God’s law) that was committed in the garden of Eden.
While misfortune in life often seems unfair, we must not direct the blame to God. As to the drought-stricken people in Ethiopia and other places, God, who is omnipotent, can intervene and prevent such conditions from occurring; or, he may step in and correct the condition by sending rain, but sometimes choosing not to do so. He may allow human suffering, but the blame for it must not be placed at his feet. No more should he be blamed with such weather catastrophes than he should with the tragedy of a child with Aids (due to no sin of his) or the child who is injured critically or who dies as a result of a drunken driver. God is not the cause of such disaster, but he is able to comfort and make pain more bearable. Paul, who suffered affliction, mental anxiety, persecution and disaster was well qualified to write to the brethren at Corinth: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:3,4).
May we never falsely accuse God of being cruel or unjust, but we may look to him for consolation and hope in a world where there is suffering, pain and death. Let us trust him, respect his word, obey it and live by it so that we can live eternally with him in heaven where there will be no suffering, sorrow, pain and death. In that better place there will be none of these things. This should encourage us to strive for that wonderful home of the soul which God has prepared for the faithful.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 22, p. 677
November 19, 1987