John Edwards comes home distraught one cold evening. The house is silent… empty—without her. The funeral came so fast and went as quickly as it had come. John’s mother, whom he cared for during her three last years on earth, had passed. It was a draining three years to see his mother deteriorate before his very eyes. The worst part was that there was always a possibility for a full recovery—yet day after day his hope was crushed. He prayed continuously, throughout those years. His Church even prayed for his mother, yet… it did not work. Standing in that empty house, John snaps. “How could you!” “What kind of God are you!” screamed John. With tears streaming down his broken face, John swears that no good and, so-called, “loving” God would allow his mother to die like that.
The Problem of Evil is usually an emotional one. One that is tied to personal experiences and can plague both the Christian and the skeptic. The purpose of this essay is to explore common heartbreaking situations that lead one to question God and to show why God is not to blame. This essay will be emotionally taxing for those who have, or know others who have, experienced the pain brought up in the examples, but my hope is that this essay will help ease that pain and see it in context.
You can “choose your journey” by picking one of the scenarios below. Each scenario will have a similar response/answer to it. The truth does not change, the only thing that does change is how it is applied. Some scenarios will require a different approach in applying the truth, but most will be similar. So, all you have to do is pick a scenario and read under that section—as well as read the conclusion—which is at the end of this essay. Lastly, I want to encourage you to first read “Part 1,” if you have not already, because it will provide needed context for this essay.
Whether you are a Christian or not, the answer to John’s story will still apply to you. John cried out to God and essentially asked: “Why would an all-good and benevolent God allow my mother to die like that?”
An exact answer to that question cannot be given because who can know the mind of God? Also, a perspective change must first happen. Death is physical in nature. There is life after this physical death. The question is: “Where will you live after death?” If you are a Christian, then you will go to heaven and eventually the new earth. If you are not a Christian, then you will be separated from God and therefore go to Hell.
If John’s mother is a Christian, then should there not be rejoicing that she is in a better place? It may then be asked: “Why did she have to suffer?” Suffering is a result of sin, and it shows us that something is not right in the world and therefore alerts us to the dangers of sin and our need for a savior. This suffering does not have to be, in a sense, personal. As John knows, the suffering of another can cause deep suffering to you. So, suffering is a result of sin, and alerts us to our need for a savior. You cannot escape suffering in this life, nor can your love ones. While not all will choose God in their suffering, is it not better to suffer in this life—if that increases your chance of not suffering for eternity?
The next logical question is: “Why would God allow suffering to happen to those who he knows will never choose Him?” Let us say that John’s mother is not a Christian and therefore goes to Hell after her physical death. There are many possible answers to this. Maybe by allowing her to suffer in this life, God is alerting those around her of their need for a savior or causing them to realize her and others’ need for a savior. There is also a question of fairness.
Is it loving to allow some a better chance of choosing Him but not others? That does not seem fair or just. If God is good, should He not then be just—regardless of the circumstances? Even if John’s mother does not realize her need for a savior with suffering, is it fair to then not allow her that opportunity or potential revelation—through suffering? Much more, by depriving her of suffering, is He not also depriving the ones around her of suffering? How is that fair?
In the end, while suffering is not ideal, it is a gift in disguise. It gives humanity perspective and a higher likelihood of choosing God—and therefore life.
How Could God let my Child Die?
Baby James suffered from the moment he was born. His mother, Jane, reflected on the short two months she had with her child. She remembered how he struggled for every breath, and how she and her husband, Tim, were up with him every night—praying that each of James’ breath will not be his last. James had a rare lung disease in which 20% of infants who have it die. During James’ short and agonizing life, Jane and Tim prayed that their son would survive and live a normal life—get married, get a job, and have children of his own. Yet, God did not answer their prayers. Much more, they had to suffer emotionally and physically with the many tears shed and the lack of sleep during those two months. This led them to ask: “How is this a good situation? Why would God allow this?” Tim and Jane had one solution, that there must be no God. In their words: “How could a good God allow such suffering—if He has the ability to stop it?”
I want to raise the parents one more question and ask God: “Would it not be better if James survived so that he can be used for good?” Free-will is an important aspect to consider here. God cannot force you to do anything. He cannot make you choose Him without destroying who you are—a being capable of a high form of love and therefore capable of making free-choices. So, God cannot, without compromising His creation, force you or James to do anything. He can, however, heal James—thereby preventing his death.
First, it must be realized that a specific answer to why God did not heal James cannot be giving—because who can know the mind of God? However, possible explanations can be given. Maybe, his short life unknowingly set off a chain of events that lead to another’s salvation. Or, perhaps, this is a “wake up” call for those around him. However, it must be realized that these are only potential resulting goods that can come from suffering. Suffering is a part of this world and is unavoidable—but that does not mean that, in this suffering, God cannot work it out for the good. This world is not meant to be paradise, nor is it meant to always go your way. The pain in this world alerts us that something is not right in the world. It shows us the dangers of sin and how we need a savior from it. God is a just god. Meaning, suffering is one of the resulting punishments of sin and will affect all—unbiasedly. Sure, humans can set up their environment to avoid suffering in some circumstances, but it will reach us all.
It may then be asked: “What about Jesus? Did he not heal some and not others?” Jesus is our savior. He illustrated that in many ways, one of which is by healing some people. He is directly showing what belief in Him will bring—eternal peace in the next life. I do not doubt that God does heal people in our time. It is very possible that He has saved you from death many times without your awareness. But all will eventually die and some sooner than others. This is the consequence of sin.
How Could God Allow Hitler to be Born?
Hitler is responsible for leading a movement that lead to the death of 6 million Jews and starting World War 2. If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, why would He allow Hitler to be born?
Could not God just have designed a world where Hitler would not be born? Well, first, we need to look at the type of world God created. In “Part 1” it is argued that humans were given the greatest gift possible—the ability to love. It is also mentioned that love requires choice and man chose sin. In so doing, man became a sinner by nature—he turned love into something else—selfishness. Because of that, I would argue that God could not have designed a world where Hitler would not be born. Hitler is an inevitable result of sin. Hitler took his own selfish desires to the extreme. With the ability to love, comes the ability to choose. This means that Hitler is solely responsible for his actions—and he will be judged by God accordingly. The day of judgment will come for all, God is not just letting men do whatever they want without consequence.
Hitler is a result of sin. In a way, he is a consequence of sin. Hitler’s life alerts us to the danger of sin and our need for a savior. This is because, no one—in their right minds—believes that what Hitler did is good. We try to stay away from what Hitler did and thereby walk in the opposite direction. In short, Hitler’s life shows the moral depravity of man and compels us to escape from it. That is not to say that it is a good thing that Hitler was born, but that there are some good that comes from it.
Overall, the “Hitlers” of the world are an inevitable consequence of sin and should be taken as a warning that things are not how they should be. They should compel us to move closer to God—by running away from “Hitler.”
How Could God Allow My Marriage to Fall Apart
Ben married the love of his life—Jennifer. Ben did everything by the book, he was a good husband. Yet, his relationship with his wife slowly deteriorated. They became more distant—despite attempts from Ben to connect with his wife again. Then, after 8 years of marriage, Jennifer hands Ben the divorce papers. It turns out that Jennifer found someone else that she wants to be with. Ben has been rejected in one of the most painful ways possible. He is overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy. His wife, the one who promised to love him “till death do us part,” found him not worthy of her “love” and replaced him with another. Ben wonders why God would do this to him. How could this so-called “loving” God allow this to happen?
This is a tough scenario emotionally. You do everything by the book, yet everything else and everyone else do not. It feels as if you are being penalized for what you did. How is that fair? How could God allow that?
In “Part 1,” human nature is explained. God created humans with the ability to love and therefore to choose. However, man decided to take love and make it into something else—selfishness—when they sinned. Because of that, man became something new, man became sinners by nature. However, we still have that ability to choose to reject selfishness and choose love. Jennifer is responsible for her own actions—not God. She will be judged by God accordingly, but the day of judgment has not yet come for her. She chose her own desires—selfishness—and therefore rejected love in this scenario. Instead of rejecting her selfish desires and choosing to love Ben, she chose herself.
This is a sad consequence of sin. Sin corrupts, and pain abounds in it. While Ben’s situation is unfortunate, it is bound to happen in a world full of sin. Ideally, this situation will “wake” Ben up to the reality that he is trapped in this sinful world and needs a savior. Suffering alerts us to that need. While suffering may not be good, it can act for our good if we realize we need a savior.
I think some may ask: “If suffering produces good, then should we stop it? Should we even have doctors and develop new medicines and cures?” The parable of the good Samaritan answers this question. In this parable, a man is traveling down a road and ends up getting robbed, beaten up, and left for dead. Three men pass the man with the first two doing nothing, and the last helping the man out. Should the last man (instead of helping the man out), after seeing that the guy is suffering, say: “Great! I will rejoice that he is suffering and leave him to this great fortune that he has been given!” No. That would be an absurd response. While suffering does alert us to our need for a savior, it also compels us to act in a godly—and therefore, loving—manner. Suffering can bring us to God, but it is still a consequence of sin. In the end, God wants us to reject our own selfish desires and accept Him—love. By caring for others, we are not only acknowledging that something is not right by helping them, but we are also becoming more like God. We are loving others. So, our response to those who are suffering should be to care for them. This is not acting against God in any way, but acting with Him in love.
Note to Christians
James 1:2-4 says: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” One thing that hardships or trials reveal is our true motivators. What I mean by “motivators” is what keeps you going—what is powering and fueling your faith. If emotions are your motivator, then your faith will diminish. Strong emotions dissipate over time. In trials, your emotions will turn on you, and your faith—if fueled by emotions—will die.
This is why your faith must be fueled purely by will power. This means that when you are facing various trials, your faith can remain strong—being fueled by your will. While your emotions may be against you during those times, they should have no effect on your faith. You can remain strong in the truth through will power.
James says that the “testing of your faith produces endurance.” Your will power will be strengthened throughout these trials against the constant barrage of your emotions. Your faith in God will become firmer and therefore you should “consider it a great joy” because “the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
 Luke 10:25-37