The question of human suffering before the eyes of a loving God has baffled humans, including God’s people for centuries.
When calamities strike, we turn to God and ask Him questions. In other words, we try to explain every tragedy with God at the center of it. Humans have done this since man fell into sin. Part of it is that we know God is omnipotent and loves us. However, that is the beginning of our error. It is not that we are wrong in thinking He is omnipotent, sovereign, and loving. Our error is that we often end there. Whether voluntarily or not, we often choose to ignore or even forget there is more. I will briefly consider four factors involved in human calamities and sufferings. It will be impossible to discuss everything in this brief article. I will attempt to enlist a few salient points.
He is not only loving, sovereign, and omnipotent. He is just. He is righteous, and unchanging in His ways. He does not bend His ways to suit circumstances. He is a God of order and principles. It is the same God who is love and who is also just. If the wages of sin is death, the wages of sin will forever be death. If He gives us authority and freedom, with the associated responsibilities, He will not take that authority away, neither will He separate the authority from the responsibilities. Keep these facts in mind as we proceed to look at the next three factors.
The loving God has shown us repeatedly that there is a personal enemy called Satan. He is not a human being. He is a spirit. It is astonishing how we almost always explain life by the God factor as though Satan does not exist or is a toothless bulldog. Job thought his calamities were his rewards from God. We can forgive Job because he did not have a revelation of Satan. We have no such excuse today after the Lord has come, and His Spirit has opened our eyes. Satan is the enemy, actively at work. He is the one who hates us, opposes us, and is hostile towards us. Hatred, hostility, and opposition can be summed up in the phrase: “he is the one seeking to destroy us”. One of the greatest factors missing in our understanding of the paradox of human suffering today is an understanding of Satan. He seems to enjoy the ignorance. He loves the darkness, to remain unknown yet working miseries in the lives of men.
Satan is the enemy of humanity, not God.
He is the mastermind behind the sufferings and oppression of humanity.
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38, KJV)
Satan was the one who oppressed people. Jesus did good and healed them.
Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8, KJV)
We will do better if we start recognizing who the real enemy is, and not attempt to ignorantly “protect him” while casting blame on a loving God. Matters get even worse with God’s children. Like Job, Satan often strikes and God’s children “give Him praise” in ignorant humility, thinking it is His sovereignty at work. The Lord says about us:
“Who is blind, but my servant? Or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect, And blind as the LORD’s servant?” (Isaiah 42:19, KJV)
Our blindness of Satan and his activities in our lives is truly troubling. I met a believer in the US who told me demons are not here in America but are mostly in Africa or other developing countries. Such ignorance is a spiritual disaster. It is partly because we have defined demonic activity and spiritual warfare in a particular way. Many believers still do not know or understanding that demons can cause physical illness, emotional or mental oppressions, sinful behaviors including addictions, relationship problems, national or regional disasters. When they think of demonic activity, they think of someone possessed with demons, manifesting some strange behaviors while some deliverance minister is commanding them out. As I shared before, I sincerely believe the major part of the Church has been completely distracted in the area of spiritual warfare and demonic activities.
Yes, we are a major factor in the calamities of the earth. It might not even be you personally, but from Adam to your neighbor, humanity has a part to play. It is no surprise we are quick to remove ourselves from the equation and blame God. Well, our forefather Adam started this trend, and we have faithfully followed it. He said it was the woman that God gave him that made him disobey. It was God’s fault. When he was bewildered by the beauty of Eve when God first brought her to him, God was good. When he enjoyed the relationship, the romance, the time with his bride of brides, God was a good God. When he failed in his assignment, and things went downhill, it was God who should take the blame. We have forgotten that man is a powerful creature, made in the image of God. Our actions matter, and cannot merely be deleted like a text message. If we sin, death is the consequence, and God cannot simply wipe it because He loves us. Humans have an authority bestowed by God, and with that authority comes responsibilities and boundaries or limits. That authority manifests itself in our freedom to choose, and say “no” even to God. With that authority comes the responsibility of our own actions.
We often wonder, why did God not stop that man from killing so many innocent people? Or why does He not stop the terrorists who are killing millions of people across the world? Why did He not stop that evil man who made some biological weapon to destroy so many people? Good questions. Let me make it easier for us to understand by using ourselves as illustrations. When was the last time you committed a sin? I mean it, seriously! When was the last time you had that sinful thought, attitude, spoke that ugly word, did that stupid stuff, or had that hidden pride in your heart that no one even knew it? Or maybe this one that often attacks us the ministers: when was the last time greed for money also fill your heart and guided your actions and not a single member of the congregation knew it? Do you know that the Spirit of God wanted to stop you? Yes! He did not want us to do it, but He could not override our will. He wants to stop us from performing sinful or evil things, but the final choice to stop is on us. It is the same thing with that murderer. The same reasons God could not stop you or me is the same reasons He could not stop that murderer from killing innocent people. If God cannot sometimes stop us from some sinful actions, what about a sinner who is not even saved and filled with the Spirit? Remember, He created us as powerful beings, in His image, bestowed with authority that He continues to honor even if it leads us downhill.
That authority also has boundaries. It is not all authority, but some authority. One of the manifestations of this boundary is that there are some things we cannot choose. And one such thing is the consequence of our actions. We can choose to sin. We cannot choose to bear the consequence or not. A person can sadly choose to reject Christ now but he or she cannot choose to go to hell or not when they die. It is a sad, but it is the truth we must fully understand. God will respect such choices, even if we drown in them. He will do everything to make us choose life. For example, there might be some of you reading this article now and God is telling you to choose life, believe in Jesus or not to do that thing you are planning to do etc. If we chose to do it anyway, well, we cannot remove the consequences the way we will think He should.
It is perplexing how we seem to have erased this concept in culture today. It is commonplace to find someone who makes certain personal choices and want to escape the consequences of their actions somehow. Escaping responsibility seems to an ingenuous ability the ultramodern man has cultivated. If we cannot find someone to shift the responsibilities to, well, God is always there!
Another factor we often seem to forget entirely is that sin is in the world. We live in a world that is already broken.The very fallen human nature is corrupted by sin and evil. Our environment is corrupted and full of dangers.Even if Satan did not directly influence things, there are some evil things that will happen in life, not because God is punishing us or Satan is after us. The system is simply broken.
A classic example here is health. Our bodies and minds are now susceptible to disease. There are certain diseases that have nothing to do with our personal choices, or Satan’s work or even God’s acts. They are just the result of a broken world full of dangers. There are some people born with diseases that have nothing to do with them or their parents. When a man slips, for example, falls and sustains a fracture, it is not necessary that God is acting or Satan is attacking. A man might respect all the traffic rules and keeps his car in shape and still suffers a fatal accident. The world has changed, and there are natural dangers all around us. That is life now in the presence of sin. Satan can certainly avail himself of opportunities or even directly cause diseases. But he is not always responsible. We are living in a world broken by sin and also ruled by a personal Satan who is our enemy.
Jesus came that He will destroy the effects of sin, Satan, and the falling human nature. God can heal us from purely natural disease or from infirmities due to demonic activity. He can save us not only from a personal devil but from an impersonal fallen world and nature around us. He is the only Hope. This is God’s message to us:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, KJV)
Even after we become children of God, He has told us that the best is yet to come. He will change the current heaven and earth. He tells us not to build our lives on the current world’s system. The coronavirus has taught us volumes about life. It has taught us that the world is passing away, and can pass away in a second. It has taught us that human beings are not the master of the universe. It has taught us that many of the things that kept us so busy in life are really not essential. There are many of us who never had time to pray or feed on God’s Word because of the “pressures of life” but are happily doing so now at home. There is one thing that is most important in your life: your relationship with God. Everything else in this life will crumble, but that relationship will determine what happens to you now and later.
As a believer, this is God’s Words for you:
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1, KJV)
“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10, KJV)