Why Does God Allow Suffering?

God Is Unfair?

Is God good?

By Grantley Morris

Part 3 of a Web Series
(It is suggested that you start at Part 1)

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We have seen that an all-powerful God would be so amazing that he can fully compensate those who have suffered horrifically in this life, even to the extent of making present suffering worthwhile. But why, if God is so loving, should anyone have to suffer pain in the first place? The answer is quite straightforward for anyone with a superhuman intellect coupled with knowledge extending way beyond the boundaries of human experience. To this you would need to add pristine holiness, an astoundingly comprehensive grasp of morality, and selfless impartiality, blended with passionate love for every person who has ever existed. Anyone graced with all these qualities would understand. The rest of us are at a severe disadvantage. Nevertheless, we can pierce the fog enough to gain a vague idea of the answer.

A full answer has many facets, some of which I address in other webpages, so it is not my purpose to expound them here, other than devote a few lines to a ridiculously brief outline of a few reasons why, despite God’s burning desire for the total eradication of earthly suffering, it is still on his to do list.

Sin – acting contrary to our Creator’s wise and loving ways – has startling ramifications. Our choices have wreaked havoc with the human gene pool and the entire environment of the planet we live on. Billions of people have acted toward God like little children who have run away from their loving home, and are then surprised to find themselves cold and hungry. Abusing the freedom he has graciously entrusted to them, people have pushed God out of their lives, and then had the hide to blame God for the mess they have created. We long to point the finger at others, but the sober truth is that we have each spent time running from the warmth of God’s presence.

If God is so loving and we need him so much, why doesn’t he force himself upon us so that we cannot reject him and make hurtful choices? For the same reason why, no matter how much a man loves a woman and is sure that he can make her happier than she has ever known, it would be wrong for him to kidnap her and rape her, rather than allowing her to decide whether she wants to marry him.

The Almighty wants only our highest good. With a terrifying intensity beyond human conception, he longs to annihilate everything that hurts people. Just one thing holds him back. His dilemma – and ours – is that you and I are among the billions of his loved ones who, through selfishness, have hurt others. Who of us can claim never to have lied, cheated, gossiped, stolen or by some other means hurt another person? We hypocritically dismiss our own contribution to human suffering as insignificant and excusable, and expect the judgment of God to come upon others. It is impossible to destroy every cause of human suffering without destroying every human. None of us could enter a perfect world without shattering its perfection. Without unprincipled favoritism – the height of unfairness – it would seem impossible for the Judge to execute full justice on anyone and let you or me survive. But he went to extraordinary lengths to find a way. The Sinless Son of God took upon himself full blame for the hurt we inflicted on people. Because the Innocent One suffered the horrific penalty we deserve for selfishly hurting others, our debt to justice has been paid in full. Now, in perfect justice, Jesus can return to earth and eradicate every cause of human suffering while letting go scot-free the millions who have put their trust in Jesus’ astounding offer to take their blame. Their willingness to let God rule their lives allows him to so transform and purify them that they can enter a perfect world without spoiling its perfection.

It would be an abuse of power, however, for the Almighty to force that on any who still insist on their independence. The time of Jesus’ return is looming. The only ones who will survive to live in a perfect world are those who have already realized they are part of the problem and have let Jesus spiritually transform them into people fit for heaven. For them, all suffering will cease. The rest will discover the full horror of being left to their own vices and being granted their wish of not having God interfering in their lives. Endless separation from God, the Source of every good thing, is a prospect too horrific to contemplate. Every second’s delay in Jesus’ return is another moment in which billions have yet another moment to come to their senses before that critical day.

That’s a glimpse of some of the reasons why God, in the perfection of his love and wisdom and morality, has so far suppressed his explosive yearning to annihilate everything that could cause us discomfort. A factor that I would like to dwell on for a moment, however, is that God longs for you to enjoy the satisfaction and eternal glory of being hailed a champion.

What if you were acclaimed a hero for getting up in the morning? Suppose you were fêted with tickertape parades and your name trumpeted around the world as being the greatest ever hero, just for getting out of bed. You could spend the rest of your life in luxury and have your every wish granted as reward for your ‘astounding achievement,’ but no matter how enjoyable it might be, the ‘honor’ would be utterly meaningless. Yes, God can pamper you – and you will get plenty of that in the next life – but without lowering himself to deception, not even the Almighty can make a hero out of a healthy person merely getting out of bed. To bask in the genuine honor and fulfillment of being a hero we must first encounter genuine hardship, pain and/or danger.

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What if Everything in Life Were ‘Fair?’

Since God is flawlessly fair, and to sin is to act in an anti-God manner, sin inevitably does what is unfair. It’s not fair that people be murdered, cheated, robbed, lied to, lied about, verbally or physically or sexually abused, maimed by a drunk driver, or born addicted to illicit drugs or born affected by sexually transmitted diseases because of a mother’s sin. All of us are both a victim of other people’s sin and have suffered because of our own sin. None of us are the magnificent beings we would be if we had not been mauled by the accumulated effects of sin in our world, sin in our ancestry, and sin in our own actions. Relative to what we would be without this anti-God behavior, each of us is, to differing degrees, disabled, disfigured and degenerate. Obviously, this is not God’s doing. To sin is to rebel against God’s loving ways and break his heart. The tragic consequences of sin confirm that God is not a killjoy. He really had our best interest at heart when he forbade actions that the Bible calls sin. To lash out at God for the unfairness that sin creates is to foolishly lynch the Innocent, just like they did two thousand years ago. By the very act of accusing God of injustice, we ourselves commit the greatest injustice.

If we could miraculously remove from planet earth every affect of sin, most of what seems unfair in our world would be wiped out. However, even a perfect world would either be a dull, inferior place or there would still be differences between people that a sin-blinded observer might misinterpret as unfairness.

If all humans were clones, identical in appearance, skills, vocation and everything else, everyone would be forced to call it fair, but what a bland, unsatisfying world it would be. One of the most exciting aspects of God’s creative genius is the rich variety in everything he has made. In a sinless world in which everyone sees through pure, unselfish eyes, we would all revel in this variety. Among the myriad of things that sinners lose, however, is the ability to enjoy variety. We sinners deserve to be sentenced to a world of gray uniformity, because the moment we encounter the slightest difference between us, we tend to react with either jealousy or pride.

We constantly make arbitrary decisions as to what is superior, like deciding that it is better to be skinny than well-rounded or better to be muscled than slightly more intelligent. Suppose everyone were physically identical except that some were born with straight hair and others had curly hair. Inevitably, some would decide that straight hair is superior and some would decide that curly hair is better, and according to their arbitrary decision they would fill with pride or jealousy.

We are able to achieve great things only because we have bodies composed of very different parts. Sperm cells, though essential for the survival of humanity, have a much shorter lifespan than brain cells. If we enforced upon creation a narrow concept of fairness, with each cell having the same abilities, appearance and lifespan, the result would not be a beautiful equality, but chaos. Paul taught that Christians fit together like the human body, with the seemingly weaker parts actually being the most needed, and those receiving the most attention being the least important, just like our hair usually receives much more attention than our vital internal organs (1 Corinthians 12:22-23). If only we understood, we would see that there is no basis for envy or pride.

It turns out that our accusations against God for his supposed unfairness highlight not some defect in God, but our own ignorance and/or bad attitudes. Such sins as selfishness, jealousy, covetousness, prejudice, pride and plain stupidity ruin our ability to value diversity and complexity in the human race. Our intolerance of variety is such that we would accuse God of unfairness unless he produced a colorless, almost nonfunctional, uniformity in humanity. Then we’d be railing against God for making life so dull.

Except for the countless unacceptable inequalities resulting from going against God’s ways, our distorted, sin-stained perception of diversity and our inability to see beyond the grave is the problem, not the fact that people differ.

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Let’s see this matter from another angle

In Jesus’ powerful story, three servants were given money. One received five talents, another two, and the other one (Matthew 25:15). Feel sorry for the one who received so little? I used to. Moreover, relative to others, I’m that one-talent man.

After years of feeling hard done by, a light flashed that should forever banish my self-pity. In the currency of the day, a talent was worth 6,000 denarii. Still mystified? Well, according to another parable, the going casual rate for an eleven-or-twelve-hour day was just one denarius (Matthew 20:1,2,8). My mind splutters into action. Multiply your daily wage by 6,000 and see if you despise the figure. You could immediately go on vacation for twenty or thirty years, or, in Jesus’ day, you could invest in many slaves (who each would earn far beyond their minimal keep) and spend the rest of your life in idle luxury.

A talent was worth three-quarters of a million widow’s mites. At that time it would cover a full year’s rent on fifty houses, or buy quarter of a million sparrows ( Luke 12:6). With bulk discount you could probably buy every sparrow on the planet! Judas sold his Savior for just two percent of this sum. With these riches you could gain full access to Rome’s magnificent public baths all day every day for a hundred years and have enough in reserve to buy a liter of wheat, or three of barley, every day for two life-times.

I can pity no longer that ‘unfortunate’ who received the least. He was rich. And he had the potential to double his wealth.

Luke 19:12-27 records a similar parable, but in this one the servants were allocated equal portions. Perhaps Luke’s version reveals the heart of God and the other (preserved in Matthew 25:16-17) describes the strategy of God. The Lord loves his children without favoritism. Or perhaps Jesus told this story once from heaven's perspective (equal portions) and once from our human perspective. In our eyes, God’s gifts seem to vary in significance, but I don’t think God sees it that way. For example, Einstein and someone we regard as mentally challenged both have low IQs relative to God, and stupendous intellects relative to grasshoppers.

Your Father, in the divine extravagance of infinite love, showers his riches upon other people. Yet that cannot diminish the magnitude of your own gift. And your investment potential is phenomenal.

Who can complain when the wisest Person in the universe does what he wants with his own wealth? Instead of resenting God for his kindness to others, or cringing before those who seem to have more, you have every reason to delight in the enormity of your own gift. In joyful thanksgiving to God, stretch that precious talent so that when the King returns you can lay at his feet a gift that has doubled in value.

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There is another side to this matter

Did you know ...

    * Most actors wanting the role of Long John Silver are hopelessly inadequate? They have too many legs.

    * Most people look like ridiculously overdressed, non-Japanese, anorexic sumo wrestlers?

    * When I was younger I could run faster than Carl Lewis? Over the years my superiority gradually waned, especially after baby Carl learned to walk.

I know what you’re thinking: I’ve finally blown a fuse upstairs. It was all a misunderstanding. They said success was just around the corner, so I went around the bend. Before you start sending get-well cards, however, let me assure you I’m as sane as anyone else here in the psychiatric ward. My point is this: whether you see yourself as gifted or weird, indispensable or inadequate, depends entirely on the frame of reference you choose. From God’s frame of reference – the life’s work he has chosen for you – no one is as perfectly endowed as you.

If that seems like soppy idealism, you have not thought it through. Do so, and it will become a treasured source of strength and comfort. You could choose any individual and fill volumes with what he or she cannot do or is hopeless at, but that’s of no more concern than the fact that a digital camera cannot fly, wash dishes, quench thirst, tie shoelaces, and prevent tooth decay. Besides the endless list of things a digital camera cannot do, many of the things it can do, it does poorly. It’s an inferior paperweight, straightedge, and bookend. You could use it as a fly-swatter – once. Such lists miss the critical point: anything skillfully designed is ideally equipped – and usually solely equipped – for the specific and commendable purpose for which it was made.

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Gaining God’s Perspective

Jesus spoke proportionally more about hell than anyone I know of. Nevertheless, he gave the impression that some of the most terrifying words anyone living happily could hear is, ‘You have your reward already’ (Matthew 6:2-5,16). He was speaking of people who were honored and seemed to have everything going their way and yet they were in a horrifying situation because, although they didn’t realize it, they had little to look forward to beyond the grave. They seemed to be enjoying the good life, but the best or worst earthly life has to offer is nothing, relative to eternity.

Our future reward is of immense importance to Jesus. For example, he said, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous’ (Luke 14:12-14).

What we call a lifetime is less than a blink in eternity.

Most of us focus so much on the here and now that we lose sight of the there and wow! A distorted view of reality leads to a distorted life. The apostle Paul was headed for a stupendous heavenly reward precisely because he could say, ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men’ (1 Corinthians 15:19). Most of us have such comfortable lifestyles that we can barely imagine why anyone would pen such words. Supposing we are getting the best of both worlds, we are actually frittering away our heavenly reward like a child with no sense of the value of money tricked into squandering his inheritance, buying ice-cream for $100,000 a cone.

The bulk of Jesus’ teaching was devoted to urging us to store up treasures in heaven. We’re so busy trying to store up ‘legitimate’ pleasures on earth, however, that we don’t even have time to realize how far we have strayed from the mindset Jesus tried to instill in his followers. He preached his heart out, and most of us are still too drugged by ease and comfort to undergo the mind shift we desperately need. No wonder he said it was so hard for the rich to leave everything and follow him. He kept preaching, ‘Deny yourself’ and we keep gorging ourselves and envying those who have even more. ‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things,’ pleaded Paul (Colossians 3:2). He longed for those with marital joys and responsibilities, or who grieve earthly losses, or who benefit from earthly gains, to act almost as if these events were not happening. The pressures of everyday life should not be so important to us, ‘For this world in its present form is passing away’ (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Endure hardship, he urged, as a soldier who never gets entangled in civilian affairs (2 Timothy 2:3-4). The words bounce off and we switch on the television.

So often, the church has needed persecution to shake it out of its infatuation with the here and now, in order to gain the right perspective and the passion that results. ‘ . . . he who has suffered in his body is done with sin,’ wrote Peter to people who were wondering why they were suffering persecution (1 Peter 4:1). How long will we tempt God to resort to this means? We have no inkling of how much we are missing out on and how much we are ruining our future inheritance as we settle down in the drunken stupor of lukewarmness. For how long can God love us and not in his grace send us suffering when nothing else seems to set our gaze heavenward?

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Bringing it Together

We dare not demand justice from God. If justice were all that mattered to God, our sins are such that we would all be in hell this instant. Nevertheless, justice is far more important to God than it will ever be to us. Each moment’s delay in the execution of that justice is giving us yet another chance to wake up to ourselves and cease frittering away our eternal reward.

Those who currently seem to have unfair advantages and blessings do not have advantages that will last into the next life. In the final analysis, it is of no consequence if, for the infinitesimal blimp that on this side of eternity we call life, one person goes hungry and another is a billionaire; one dies very young, another lives to be a hundred; one is brilliant and the other can barely think; one has a life-long marriage that dreams are made of and another reels in the agony of abuse and loneliness; one has perfect health and stunning looks, and another is a pain-wracked leper. Down to the minutest detail, every advantage and disadvantage experienced in our earthly life is carefully weighed by the mind-boggling genius of Almighty God.

Whoever in life has paid the highest price to serve their Lord will be repaid with the highest rewards. For all eternity, those who had it easy this side of the grave will wish they had pushed themselves harder. They will forever envy those whose life had been harsher. The exact amount more expected of those who faced fewer challenges is calculated with such precision that every doubt about God’s fairness will forever be silenced.

As illustrated in the story of Angelo, God sees us in a very different way from how others see us. He can see you as a great achiever when others might see you as a loser. He looks not just at obvious achievements but he lovingly, carefully considers every personal obstacle we face and he will compensate us accordingly for all eternity.

Despite our vastly different earthly circumstances, we each have equal opportunity for sacrifice and the eternal glory it produces. And yet we each squander some of that priceless, irretrievable opportunity.

    1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

Long after I had written this webpage, a woman almost no one has heard of told me what she claimed to have received as a revelation from God. It certainly rings true to me. I quickly sought and received her permission to share it with you:

    God’s kingdom has many generals of faith but they are usually people the world has never heard of. While on earth, they are unnoticeable even among believers. They truly are the last. But what a surprise is awaiting them, because throughout their lives the Lord has been preparing for true ministry that will last for all eternity.

    Having a level of publicity and success on earth may mean that one is not in a high position in the heavenly hierarchy. God does not measure people by how many works they have done for him. He measures them by how they love him in the worst situations of their lives.

    If the Lord chooses somebody to be his special vessel, he will ensure this vessel is ready for such high ministry. And I am not talking about earthly ministry. Many of the special vessels he is preparing have huge personal challenges that take their whole lives to overcome.

    Next time, when I see people who are mentally or physically disabled or facing other challenges, I will treat them like royalty. They are the special kind of people I would want to be on the good side of. Someone I am tempted to look down on could be my future general in the age to come.

Why is life unfair?
Because God is fair and we live in an anti-God world. Acting contrary to God’s wise and loving ways will always produce victims of unfairness and even hurt generations not yet born.

Why doesn’t God intervene?
He has. Jesus – in a real sense, humanity’s only Innocent – suffered the world’s greatest injustice on behalf of each of us who have unjustly hurt others.

But why hasn’t God stopped the unfairness?
He will. Jesus’ return will see the full restoration of justice and fairness that Jesus’ suffering has achieved.

Well why hasn’t he done this already?
    * Had he done so, before you were born again, you would be in hell right now.

    * God can wait because life as we know it is a training ground, not our destiny.

Some of us have a much tougher life on earth – and hence much tougher training – than others because they are being prepared for much greater, more glorious work in the future than those who slack off.

As middle-aged women hoping they can get away with overeating eventually figure out, it all pans out in the end. That’s the bottom line.

The first few strokes of a masterpiece look chaotic and ugly. Anyone judging a work of art long before it is finished is a fool.

What makes life so rich is that we are each divinely treated as individuals and have a unique contribution to make. You are made for great exploits. Rise to your full potential in God and shine in endless glory.

Robert Scott and his team, struggled to the South Pole only to discover their honor of being the first to reach the Pole was lost forever. Amundsen had beaten them by about a month. To add to the futility, they endured further blizzards, illness, frostbite and starvation only to perish; the last three dying just a few kilometers from safety. Yet today their miserable defeat ending with death in frozen isolation, witnessed by not a living soul, is hailed as one on the greatest ever epics of human exploration and endurance.

Every fiber of my being is convinced that their glory is just a shadow of what you can achieve. Though you suffer in isolation and apparent futility, the depths of your trial known to no one on earth, your name could be blazed in heaven’s lights, honored forever by heaven’s throngs for your epic struggle with illness, bereavement, or whatever. The day is coming when what is endured in secret will be shouted from the housetops.

Look at Job: bewildered, maligned, misunderstood; engaged not in some heroic struggle but battling essentially common things – a financial reversal, bereavement, illness; – not cheered on by screaming fans, just booed by some one-time friends. If even on this crazy planet Job is honored today, I can’t imagine the acclaim awaiting you when all is revealed. Your battle with life’s miseries can be as daring as David’s encounter with Goliath. Don’t worry that others don’t understand this at present. One day they will.

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Have you made life’s most exciting discovery? See What Your Fantasies Reveal to make the astounding discovery that God is the wonderfully warm, exciting companion you have always longed for. You can have a supernatural encounter with God.

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The webpage you have been reading contains extracts from Waiting for Your Ministry by Grantley Morris.

Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2002, 2003, 2015. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net
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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version © Copyright, 1978 by New York International Bible Society.