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10 Questions That Skeptics Ask

Why is there Evil and Suffering in the World?

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

Part 3: How can Christians say that there is just one way to God?


I. Introduction – The Problem of Evil

  • The Question – Why?
  • We cannot completely understand and infinite God or His ways (Deut. 29:29; Is55:8-9; Rom. 11:33)

II. Basic Answers

  • God is all Good and all Powerful (Rev. 4:8; Luke 1:37)
  • God made a very Good world (Gen. 1:31)
  • Evil is a necessary Risk of freedom (Gen.2:17)
  • Much of evil is the result of original sin (Rom. 8:19-22; 5:12)
  • Much of evil is the result of man’s decisions (James 4:1-3)
  • Some suffering comes directly from God (Amos 7)
  • G. Some suffering comes directly from Satan (John 10:10)

III. Begging the Question – Why Doesn’t God do Something?

  • Life would be a Jello World
  • Life would be nothing but miracles
  • There would be no free will
  • Where would God begin and stop?

IV. God has Done Something

  • He Has Shown Us Mercy (Lam. 3:22-23; Ps. 103:10-11)
  • He has identified with our suffering (Is53:3-4; He2:16-18; 4:15-16)
  • He has given us hope beyond our suffering (John 3;16; Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 15-19; 2 Cor. 4:16ff; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 3:18)
  • He is working to bring good from suffering (Rom. 8:28)
    • To draw us close to Him
    • To make us strong
    • To produce grace
    • To keep us focused with hope

ECBC/2-5-12 Q.# 4 If God is Good,

Why does Evil and Suffering Exist? Rom. 11:33

I. The Problem –

The Question – Why? 10 and ½ years ago terrorists attacked the United States killing about 3000 people and destroying America’s World Trade Towers. News channels had America’s Christian leaders like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Franklin Graham, and Jerry Farwell, on their shows asking them questions like these:

  • Why didn’t God protect us?
  • Where was God on 9-11
  • Why did God allow this to happen?

Over the last 10 years we have asked these questions many times as there have seemed to be no end of natural disasters and wars. Why the tsunamis, the hurricanes, the fires, the tornadoes, the floods, the earthquakes and all the loss of property, and life?

These questions are asked everyday in different ways by many people like:

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do good things happen to bad people?
  • Why do innocent people suffer?
  • Why didn’t God heal me or my loved one?
  • Why did God allow the children to be abused?
  • Why doesn’t God stop the evil?
  • Why did He bring or allow that disaster?
  • And many more that you can probably think of.

Some say, "If there is a God, He would be good and He wouldn’t allow such evil and suffering. Since evil and suffering exists, either God isn’t good, or He isn’t all powerful, or He doesn’t exist." That leads to Atheism. Others, hold to the belief of a duel universe; that is, evil is co-eternal with God, half the universe is evil and half is good, ying and yang. This is called dualism. The only other choice is that God is all good and all powerful and that He is at work in the suffering and one day will put and end to it. This is what I want to explore with you this morning.

A Confession

Before we dig in, lets make come to an understanding. There are some things that we simply can’t understand about God or His ways. God is bigger than the universe and God is infinite. We are finite and limited in our understanding. Someone once said that trying to understand an infinite God with a finite mind is like trying to put the Atlantic Ocean in a Dixie Cup. Listen to these verses:

  • Deut. 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."
  • Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
  • Romans 11:33, "Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unreachable are His judgments and His ways past finding out." So, here we go.

II. Basic Answers

  • God is Good and God is all powerful. Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." And He is called the Lord God Almighty (Rev. 4:8). Gabriel told Mary that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)
  • Consider that there was a time when there was no evil and the world God created was very good (Genesis 1:31)
  • Listen carefully – Evil is a necessary risk of Freedom. Evil is the corruption of good. A Good car will rust; a good peach or tomato will rot; a good cloth will dry rot. In God’s creation there were two good creatures that were different than the rest of creation. One was in heaven, the other on earth. Both were perfect. Man, was created to image God. I believe that involves the ability to think, and know personally, to create, make decisions, and feel emotions. No other creature on earth is like us. But both were created with the freedom to choose. We call it, freewill. Neither was programmed to respond apart from their willful desire. God desired that both would respond to Him in love trust and obedience. He gave our first parents an opportunity to choose to love trust, and obey Him in the form of a test of sorts. He explained the test and the consequences of their choices (Gen 2.16-17). Giving them the freedom to choose was to risk that they would make the wrong choice. Had he not given them the ability to choose. He would have had to program them like animals or robots or machines. In a sense we would have just been prisoners of God, all of our choices would already be made for us. The world would simply be our prison. The freedom to choose includes the possibility of making the wrong choice or choosing differently than expected. It’s the risk of asking for a favor or asking someone to go on a date or to marry you. They may say, "No." Even the love you want to experience from someone like a spouse or significant other, we want to be from their heart and not from being coerced. God wanted our love honor, trust, and obedience to be our choice from our heart. Our first parents chose poorly.
  • Much of the evil is the result of original sin
    • From the weeds in our gardens to the natural disasters that rock the earth, we are feeling the effects of the consequences of original sin on creation that was corrupted and cursed by Adam’s choice (Rom. 8:19-22; Gen. 3:15-18). .
    • Sickness and death is the result of Adam’s choice (Rom. 5:12). The body is subject to corruption, disease and decay that despite better medicine and technology will eventually lead to our death.
    • Much of the world’s Evil is the result of our own wrong choices or sinful actions. We have an inherited nature that’s bent to sin and it has been passed down to us from our first parents like a baby born with HIV, or addicted to crack cocaine or alcohol. That nature begins to manifest itself in our actions from early childhood in selfishness and temper tantrums and disobedience and other actions that continue throughout our lives. People choose to lie, steal, kill, drink, do drugs, be selfish, and more and our decisions almost always will affect others in some way. No person is an island (James 4:1-3).
    • Some suffering and evil comes directly from God. He took the life of David and Bathsheba’s child, and gave Uzziah leprosy after they willfully sinned against Him. He brought natural disasters upon people who would not listen to Him not just as punishment but to get their attention and bring them back to Him (Amos 7).
    • Some evil and suffering comes Satan who our Lord Jesus says wants to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Satan attacked Job and entered Judas to kill Jesus. Satan is not equal with God but he is a powerful spiritual being that like Adam made a willful decision to not love trust, honor, or obey God, and is now bent on destroying God’s creation and wants to cause you to doubt and disobey God and His ways.

III. Begging the Question

Why Doesn’t a Good and Powerful God do Something to stop Evil and Suffering? Why doesn’t He destroy the devil? Why doesn’t He stop the suffering? He could But here is our problem. Where would He start and where would He stop?

  • Consider the world would have to be made of Jello or foam rubber, so we would just bounce off each other’s cars when we collided or fell, or hit our thumbs with a hammer. Bullets and bombs would have no effect.
  • Consider that life would just be a constant flow of miracles correcting and keeping us from harm.
  • There would be no free will. All decisions would be made for you like a person in prison or a robot that is programmed to perform, or a marionette puppet.
  • If God were to remove evil, where would He start and where would He stop? Would start with evil dictators, mass murderers, rapist, child abusers, or would He remove the potential for evil? Remember Noah? The world He had created very good had become totally corrupt and evil (Genesis 6:5-14). God decided to destroy all evil and start over with Noah and His immediate family. You know the story. God destroyed the world but He did not destroy the potential for evil which resided in the heart of man. It wasn’t long after the flood that evil began to again manifest itself because the potential for evil is in every one of us. This is why Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" Paul repeats the Psalmist in Romans 3:9-18, "there is none righteous, no not one…." If God destroyed the potential for evil, all of us would be destroyed.

IV. Consider that God did do Something.

  1. He has shown His mercy to us in giving us blessings everyday (Lam. 3:22-23; Psalm 103:10-11; Luke 6:35-36; Matt. 5:45), Sunshine and rain, air, food, shelter, and much more. Who hasn’t received more mercy and grace than they deserve from God? Who has gotten the justice that they really deserve from God for our own sins.
  2. He has identified with us in our suffering (Is53:3-4; He2:16-18; 4:15-16). The infinite God came to us clothed in our flesh to identify with us in our pain and suffering. He knows by experience what you go through. Isaiah reminds us that what afflicts us, afflicts Him (Is63:9). He feels your pain and tells you to come running to Him when you hurt because he knows how to help to you (He4:16; Matt. 11:28-20).
  3. He has given us a hope that goes beyond our suffering (John 3:16; Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 15-19; 2 Cor. 4:16ff; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 3:18). Because He Himself paid the eternal consequences for our sins and evil when He died on the cross and rose again. He offers us eternal life free from the presence and the potential of evil, with Him in Heaven forever. We know that this life will end, but our lives don’t end and when this life is over, those of us who follow Jesus will enjoy Him and His peace forever.
  4. He is at work even now to bring good out of suffering (Rom. 8:28).
  • To draw us close to Him –How often does it take pain to get us to draw close to God, to look up to Him and cry out to Him for help. Pain gets our attention. Without it we would be completely focused on the temporary things of this life and not on the hope that God has for us for eternity. Would you have a close relationship with God without pain at some point in your life?
  • To make us strong – Consider that pain has a refining effect. It strengthens our character like steel that goes through the intense heat of the furnace or like the human body that gains fitness and strengthen by being stretched and worked. Fitness experts have used this saying for years, "No Pain, No Gain."
  • To produce grace – Consider that it is because of pain and suffering that charitable organizations and ministries have come into being like World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse the Salvation Army, Rescue Missions, Homeless Shelters, Orphanages, Hospice care etc. Christians have led the way, with many of these to relieve the poor and suffering and to show the love of Jesus to those who are in nee
  • To keep us focused with hope – The Bible constantly reminds us that the day is coming when Jesus will return and the sin, evil, and suffering will stop and there will be righteousness and health and peace in the world (Dan. 9:24: Is11:1-10; Rev. 21). Why hasn’t He come back yet and stopped it? Peter says (2 Peter 3:9), it is because God doesn’t want anyone to perish but that all have a chance to repent and be save


A preacher met a barber that proclaimed that he was an atheist. They walked as they talked and passed through a terribly bad part of the city. The atheist barber said to the pastor, "This is why I can not believe in your God. If He is a loving, good God how can He permit all this poverty, disease drugs, and crime?" The pastor said nothing.

As they continued to walk, they saw a man sitting in an alley with filthy cloths and long, dirty hair and ½ inch of stubble beard and the pastor said to the barber, "You can not be a very good barber or you wouldn’t let people like this live here without a shave and a haircut."

The barber got angry and said, "You can’t blame me for that man. I can’t help it if he’s like that. He has never come to my shop and given me the chance to help him. If he would, I could fix him up and make him look like a gentleman."

The pastor then said, "Then how can you blame God for allowing people to continue in their evil ways. He constantly invites them to come to Him and let Him help them to change but they don’t. They refuse to accept the one that loved them and died and rose again to save and change their lives."

Conclusion – There are several things I want to encourage you to do.

  • Develop a daily time of communion with God. Read His word and talk to Him everyday (Ps. 55:17; Dan 6:10). The more comfortable you are when times are good, the more comfortable you will be when times are not so good.
  • Cry out to Him when times are bad (He2:18; 4:16; Matt. 11:28-30; 1 Peter 5:7)
  • Trust Him even when you don’t understand – He is at work (Pr. 3:5-6)
  • Stay focused o the Eternal and what is really important and not on the temporal (Matt. 6:18-21; He12:2-3; Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 4:16ff).
  • Think of ways to use the reality of evil and pain to point people who you know and love to Jesus and the Hope that is Him.
  • If you have never repented of your sins and received the grace of God in Jesus, please do that today (Romans 10:9-13). He desperately wants you to be saved and love honor, trust, and obey Him because he loves you so much.

Read Part 5: Would a Loving God Really Send Anyone to Hell?

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman