Why do bad things happen? Why does God allow evil and suffering on earth?
These are the questions many ask after a personal or national tragedy, such as when a tornado ripped through 200 miles of Kentucky Friday night and Saturday morning.
The storm was three-quarters of a mile wide and killed at least 80 people, making it the deadliest tornado in the state’s history. And that doesn’t even account for all the homes and businesses it destroyed. (Please keep Kentucky in your prayers, especially those who lost loved ones or their livelihood.)
Why do horrible things—from natural disasters to human evil—happen even to seemingly innocent people? Pew Research reports that over the last two years, 23% of U.S. adults have been pondering this question as well as the purpose of suffering and the meaning of life.
The Pew study reveals that “Americans largely blame random chance—along with people’s own actions and the way society is structured—for human suffering, while relatively few believers blame God or voice doubts about the existence of God for this reason.”
We can’t explain the reasons behind every person’s personal tragedies or every national disaster. But Ken Ham offers several truths from Scripture:
1. Suffering wasn’t part of God’s original creation.
When God created the world, He made it “very good” (see Genesis 1) and free of death, suffering, and pain.
So what happened? Man sinned and introduced death into the world. Every horrific thing we see on earth today is the indirect result of that original decision to sin.
The Bible tells us that “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12, ESV).
Later on in the book of Romans, Paul tells us, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8: 20-21, ESV).
But that’s not the end of the story! God promises us that suffering doesn’t have the final word. Because Jesus died on the cross and rose again, we can experience new life in Him. And when Jesus returns to judge the world, He will also create a new heavens and a new earth, where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, ESV).
2. God is sovereign.
Even though God didn’t create death and suffering at the beginning, He’s still sovereign over those things. He is the King of all creation and history—and He works all things together for His glory and for the good of those who love Him (see Romans 8:28).
Our suffering isn’t meaningless. It has a purpose. Jesus is sovereignly ruling and using all things to bring about His good and perfect plan.
Not only so, but Jesus is also merciful. He cares about our suffering and has glorious things in store. Paul says our trials are “light and momentary” (see 2 Corinthians 4:17) when compared to the glories we will soon experience with Christ in eternity.
3. God’s ways aren’t our ways.
Although God does have a good and perfect plan for all our heartache, He doesn’t promise that we will understand the specifics of that plan in this life.
When tragedy strikes, our first question might be “Why?” And sometimes we don’t get the immediate or complete answers we were hoping for.
That was Job’s experience, too. When Satan attacked him, Job lost his children, his livestock (his wealth), and his own health. He was in constant physical and emotional pain.
Later on in the book of Job, God appears to him and speaks. But He doesn’t tell Job exactly why his suffering happened or even how it happened (Job 1 explains that).
But He does show Job how amazing He is. He gives Job a small glimpse of His glory, majesty, and immense power and sovereignty.
After seeing God in this way, Job is immediately humbled and says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. … but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2, 6, ESV).
Finding Purpose in Our Pain Through Jesus
Our culture will try to allay the pain of suffering with vague platitudes like “Everything happens for a reason,” “It was meant to be,” or even “Time heals all wounds.”
But we can’t truly make sense of suffering apart from Jesus and the gospel. Only in Him can we find true, lasting hope even in the worst of trials.
As Christians, we know our God is sovereign, that He is using even our pain for His glory and our good. And we also know that our hope isn’t in this life. We’re looking forward to eternity with Jesus, to a heavenly “city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10, ESV).
Learn More About God’s Purpose in Suffering at Answers TV
When faced with trials, we often are quick to question why God would let suffering happen. But instead, we need to realize that, in this life, there will be trouble. Jesus promised us that. As Christians and followers of Jesus, though, we have a deeper hope. Learn about that hope in Job’s account.