Why There is Suffering in the World
By Pat Robertson
The 700 Club
CBN.com - The existence
of suffering in this world is a complex subject that might cause many
Christians and non-Christians alike to question the love of God. But we
must remember that God is not the cause of our suffering. As Pat reveals,
often the problem is us.
Suffering touches everyone who lives on this planet. All you have to
do is pick up a daily newspaper or listen to a news broadcast to know
that a great many people are suffering. They suffer because of automobile
accidents or because of terrible diseases or because of crime. Some
suffer because they were born in poverty, others because they were born
in countries ruled by dictators. There are many causes of suffering,
and the list could go on for pages. But our question is not concerned
with causes. We are looking for the reasons for suffering.
To say there is suffering because there is crime, or because there
are auto accidents, is not nearly enough. Our question goes far beneath
the surface, where it hits at the very roots of human pain and anguish.
The first thing to be said about suffering is that most of it comes
about because of the activities of a powerful supernatural being called
Satan, or the devil. He delights in hurting man and in trying to turn
man away from God. Very often people blame God when they suffer, but
is it God's fault? Satan takes great pride in seeing God gets the "credit"
for his misdeeds.
Suffering is also caused by man's rebellion against God and by the
evil in men's hearts. How much suffering has been caused in the modern
world, for instance, by Communism, or by men hurting other men? Godless
dictators hurt their own people, and they hurt the people of neighboring
nations as well. Just consider how much suffering has been caused, in
this century alone, by men such as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao
Tse-tung. As the result of godless dictatorships, there is suffering
in the form of heartbreak.
You might say that suffering is a result of freedom. God has given
man a certain amount of freedom. If man were merely a robot, an automaton,
then God could always force him to do what is right. But God gives man
the freedom either to love and obey Him or to rebel against Him. When
man rebels against God, he hurts not only himself but also his fellow
Something else to remember about suffering is that God set up certain
natural laws to govern the universe. If it were not for the law of gravity,
we would all go floating off into space. But that same law is going
to cause pain to people who jump from the tops of tall buildings!
Consider the hurricane, the earth's way of releasing pent-up heat and
energy. Heat from the southern climates has to move north and be discharged
from the earth. When that happens, it causes a violent wind to blow.
That wind, in turn, stirs up huge waves when it passes over the ocean.
The hurricane is not meant to cause suffering, but if people ignore
the warnings of nature, they will be injured by hurricanes.
The same is true of fault lines, such as the San Andreas Fault. Fault
lines are necessary to keep the earth from just breaking apart. But
if people insist upon building houses on the San Andreas Fault--as they
do--then they are going to suffer when an earthquake comes. Such suffering
does not result from God's intentions, but comes rather from man's foolishness.
We can either go along with natural forces and accommodate ourselves
to them, or we can ignore them and be hurt by them.
Much sickness, too, is man-made. Some of it is because of improper
nutrition. People do not eat the right things. God gives us natural
sugar, but we bleach it and make it white. We eat white bread, when
whole wheat is much better for us. God gives us naturally fibrous fruit
and plants, but we boil the fiber away. We do the same thing with oranges,
when we squeeze the juice out of them and throw away the pulp, which
is a beneficial part. We also peel potatoes and eat only the inside.
In doing so, we throw away the part that God made to help us stay healthy.
It is probable that 75 to 80 percent of the illnesses in the United
States are psychosomatic. We have not learned to cast all our cares
upon God, as we are advised to do in I Peter 5:7, and so we let our
worried and harried minds make us sick.
We also make ourselves sick voluntarily through doing such things as
smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and ingesting drugs. Automobile
accidents cause fifty-six thousand deaths in our country each year--and
half of those involve drunken driving.
The technological state of our society contributes to suffering too.
If there were no automobiles, there would be no deaths and injuries
resulting from highway accidents. Our air would not be polluted with
smoke from factories and automobile exhaust if there were no cars and
factories. All of these things are part of the price we pay for our
state of civilization. If we do not want to pay the price, we can go
back to a more primitive society. In today's world, our lifestyle is
a large contributor to sickness and disease.
To illustrate again how man contributes to his own suffering, consider
what has happened in Africa. The northern plain of that continent was
once a beautiful, fertile, wooded area. But over several centuries,
people cut down all the trees. As a result, the topsoil eroded and there
was nothing left but desert. Without the protective cover of the trees,
temperatures in the region rose steadily. The people moved farther south,
seeking fertile land. As they moved southward, they continued cutting
the trees, and consequently the desert moved southward. Today there
are three-and-a-half million square miles of desert in the northern
part of Africa. In northern Africa and in many other areas of the world,
men have disturbed the ecological balance in nature. As a result, poverty
and hunger are worse and worse.
India has a similar problem. India was once one of the most fertile
lands in the entire world. But the Indian people have embraced a philosophy
that says rats and cows are sacred. So the cows eat up much of the vegetation,
and the rats devour a good deal of the grain. Given a new understanding
of nature, proper agricultural techniques, a forestation program, and
a cleansing of rivers, which are now polluted, India could be agriculturally
The problem is not caused by an act of God, but it stems from man's
over a period of years, perhaps centuries. And the problems are steadily
over successive generations.
There are other forms of suffering that men bring on themselves. Consider,
for example, such diseases as genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, and
AIDS. These all result from a conscious lifestyle that is opposed to
God's Word and breaks God's laws. God did not send herpes. It is a natural
consequence of immorality. When it spreads, it becomes an incurable
disease, affecting millions and millions of people.
Why does God allow this to happen? When we ask this question, it brings
us back to the statement that God has created man as a free being--free
even to the point of ruining much of God's creation. God has sent preachers,
prophets, and other holy men to warn the people to change their ways
but most will not listen. They would not listen to the prophets four
thousand years ago, and most of them will not listen today.
It is true that the righteous often suffer, and this will continue
as long as we live in a world of wickedness. If someone speaks out against
wickedness, he is going to be involved in a struggle, and that struggle
may result in pain and suffering. Jesus said, "If they persecuted Me,
they will also persecute you" (John 15:20).
Jesus Christ was the only perfect man who ever lived, and people killed
Him. Why? Because He came into contact with evil and tried to do something
about it. John the Baptist was beheaded because he told people they
were breaking God's laws (see Mark 6:25-28). It has been true throughout
the ages that those who are God's messengers are often set upon and
hurt by the people they have tried to warn. That kind of suffering is
virtually unavoidable as long as we live in a wicked world of superstition,
hatred, and ignorance.
Suffering, if we allow it to, does have a way of purifying us. Many
people have had to suffer in order to turn to God. Until they had their
material things stripped from them, and often their health taken away,
they had no desire for spiritual things.
Those who are suffering may be tempted to turn away from God. They
should never allow this to happen. Instead, they should worship God
and be blessed and benefited, even in the midst of their suffering.
Those who hurt must remember that it is not God's will for anyone to
They must remember, too, that He will intervene for those who diligently
seek Him. Thousands of people can testify that God will intervene to
relieve pain and suffering, but this depends on a closeness and an intimacy
with Him. Should we, then, accept everything, and thank God for whatever
happens to us--good and bad?
God answers this question specifically in the Bible. "And we know that
all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who
are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
It is important to understand that accepting things is not the same
thing as being resigned to them. You must accept suffering without becoming
bitter, and you can accept it without resigning yourself to it. It is
not your "lot in life" to suffer. Those who do suffer should never quit
seeking God's touch and asking Him to set them free. Jesus said, "Ask,
and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it
will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks
finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8). The
key is to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.
One final word about suffering. There is a certain amount of pain involved
whenever growth is taking place. When people are moving to a higher
level of intellectual activity, there is a struggle that has to take
place, and in that struggle there is pain. When people who are great
athletes are pushing through the limits of endurance to get to new records,
there is constant pain. There is pain when you are running a mile or
two at top speed, when your lungs are gasping and your body wants to
quit. But there is also the overwhelming joy that comes when you finally
do break through into that new dimension.
This kind of pain is not the same thing as suffering. Some people do
the difference between the suffering that is caused deliberately by
evil and the pain that comes about through striving to reach a new plateau
of experience. Such suffering merely marks the transition period of
going from one level of accomplishment to a higher level.
All suffering is temporary. It will all pass away when Jesus Himself
returns to the earth. Revelation 21:4 reads: "And God will wipe away
every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow,
nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have
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