Watching Russia invade Ukraine and the suffering and killing of the Ukrainian people brings to mind the question of why a loving God would allow this evil and suffering to take place. Last week we examined one reason, and today I’d like to think about another reason.
Consider the concept of love and freedom of choice for a minute. When you think about it, love allows freedom of choice. After all, if God programmed us to be robot slaves, that would not be very loving. God is love (1 John 4:8). Love allows freedom of choice. Therefore, God allows freedom of choice.
Now, consider this. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes and we’ll continue to make mistakes. Freedom of choice exists. We are all free to make whatever choices in life we want to make. Yet, none of us are perfect. That means we will make wrong choices at times. That in turn means that where there is freedom of choice, the result will be wrong choices.
What can produce evil and suffering in the world? Wrong choices.
If every single choice anyone makes – both the good choices and the bad choices – produce the exact same effect, then how would any of us ever learn to choose the good choices and reject the bad ones?
Therefore, where freedom of choice exists, sooner or later we flawed human beings who make wrong choices from time to time must be allowed to suffer the consequences of those bad choices.
Keeping this in mind, let’s think about the fact that there are different kinds of suffering which exist. Why do we suffer? What specifically brings about the result of suffering?
Sometimes we suffer because we personally make wrong choices. If I steal something and go to prison and all kinds of bad things happen to me in prison, causing me to suffer greatly…whose fault is it? Mine (1 Pet. 4:15).
A lot of suffering exists because other people had the freedom to make bad choices and they exercised that freedom. Think of the innocent person walking down the street who is suddenly crippled for life by a drunk driver who hits him with a car. That driver became drunk because he made the wrong choice to drink alcohol. He then made another bad choice when he chose to get behind the wheel of a car while drunk. So sometimes we pay the price for the freedom of choice which others have. If we want freedom of choice for ourselves, we cannot deny it to everyone else. However, we must also realize that evil and suffering result from that.
Sometimes suffering happens because of the wrong choices made by people who lived before you were ever born. This is what the Bible was talking about when God says that he visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him (Ex. 20:5-6). At first glance, that seems pretty harsh. Why would God allow hardship to happen to children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren as a result of their parent’s sins?
Think about it. That car you drive, your refrigerator, your television,that pasteurized milk you drink, the shampoo and soap you use, your toothpaste and toothbrush…all of that and much more is in your life because previous generations worked hard to invent them and bring them into existence.
Well, guess what? If we reap the benefits of the good choices and hard work of former generations, we also reap the evils which come from their bad choices too.
For example, in some countries little children are starving because it’s against the law to kill cows and eat the meat…all because their ancestors rejected God and decided to worship cows.
Also, why are there so many diseases which harm us? Ultimately, it’s because of our bad choices, because of our sin. There was no disease or death in the Garden of Eden. Yet when Adam and Eve sinned, they lost the tree of life. All of their offspring and descendants — us — have inherited the conditions of disease and death which they introduced into the world.
Consider this too. Why do hurricanes and earthquakes and the like happen? They cause a lot of suffering and death, after all. Yet, what produced these violent physical conditions that are on this planet? Answer: the drastically different geophysical features oft he earth. Some areas on this planet are desert while others are mountainous. With each of these different areas there are different kinds of pressure areas within them. All of them contribute to storms, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the like. What created all of these different geophysical features worldwide which cause the hurricanes, storms, and earthquakes which bring so much suffering to so many people? Answer: the global flood of Noah’s day, which caused huge changes in the climate, weather, and land…and which itself was the consequence of the sins of our ancestors, the bad choices they made.
Lord willing, we’ll continue this study next week. Thanks for reading!
One thought on “If God Exists, Why Do Evil and Suffering Exist?: The Choice Factor”
Thank you Jon for all the good commentaries.