Why Does a Loving God Allow Evil and Suffering?
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Genesis 3:17
In my addiction, I prayed many times for God to simply take away my ability to choose drugs. I give you permission God. Just take over my life. Make me a robot that cannot choose evil, but only good. I want to do right, but I keep doing wrong. I’m begging you. Just take away my free-will and make me a robot. God never took me up on my offer though. If I wanted recovery, I was going to have to work at it, choosing to be obedient to his will. Still, in my struggle, I often had to wonder – Why would God allow me to experience such evil? Why would I be born with this self-destructive appetite? Why would a loving God allow illicit drugs to exist?
This is the problem of evil and it’s one that man has wrestled with for centuries. Why do evil, pain, and suffering exist in a world made by an all-powerful and loving creator? Today’s passage tells of the origin of pain and suffering, providing an explanation for why God tolerates the existence of evil.
In the story, Adam and Eve had just eaten the forbidden fruit when God confronted them, elicited a confession, and then pronounced his terrible judgment. God had provided Adam and Eve with a choice to obey or disobey him and, because of their sin, the universe fell. Up to that point, all creation existed in harmony and man was meant to live in an intimate relationship with God in paradise forever. On that day though, as a direct result of sin, sickness and interpersonal conflict were born. On that day, all of nature fell and natural disasters began. On that day, man became mortal and his body began to decay. Ever since, man has lived under the curse of Adam and Eve as the terrible consequences of their sin have echoed through time, reverberating throughout our entire lives. The world is broken and so are we.
The answer to why, I think, is evident to me through my own story. I once wished I was a robot, but I don’t wish that now. Now, I’m thankful that God uses my struggles to teach me faith and obedience. This is God’s will – that man is allowed the ability to choose him or not. God loves us and he longs that we love him back. Robots can’t love because they have no choice. God has granted us the choice follow him or follow ourselves. Evil happens when we follow ourselves over God. Yes, God is in charge, and he has allowed this, but man is the original source of all evil and suffering in our world – and we are capable of almost inconceivable evil.
Thankfully the opposite is true as well. In seeking God, we can find good. In following him and his will, we can know the life, joy, and peace for which we were made. This won’t fix the world. The world is still a mess, but we can be transformed, experiencing authentic life, despite living in a broken world.