Is God Ultimately Responsible For Suffering?

Is God Ultimately Responsible For Suffering?

Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?
–Lamentations 3:37-38

Any time there is such an evil deed committed, people want to know, where was God in the midst of that suffering? People certainly asked the question on September 11, and there was no shortage of answers. Lisa Beamer, whose husband Todd was one of the heroes on board United Flight 93, believes that the tragedy served a higher purpose known only to God. However, the mother of another passenger was not so sure. Joan Glick, the mother of passenger Jeremy Glick, was uncomfortable attributing the events of that day to some kind of higher power or purpose, because that would absolve people of responsibility. “It’s easier to think it was fate,” she said. “Then everyone is off the hook, the government, the airlines, the security people. If people start to believe it was fate, that means there is no way you could have controlled the destiny of September 11.” Of all of the explanations for September 11, hardly anyone was willing to offer the politically incorrect answer: God was ultimately responsible from the events of September 11.

Terrorist attacks, murders, hurricanes, famines, and other calamities all naturally raise the question, What is God’s role in human suffering? If there really is a God, why does He allow evil in the world? Perhaps as you have tried to share your faith with people, you have gotten that question as well. Perhaps it is a question you have wondered yourself.

Through the ages, many philosophers have used the existence of evil as a way to dispute the idea that there is a God. According to one writer, Scottish philosopher David Hume tried to “impale Christian theology upon one or both horns of his famous dilemma: ‘Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?’” In other words, if God is gracious and loving, yet He does not stop evil, then He must not be able to. If God is all-powerful, yet He does not stop evil, then He must be evil Himself. If you do not like either one of those possibilities, the third explanation is that there is no God, because clearly evil is all around us. But there is actually a fourth explanation about God’s role in evil that comes straight from the pages of Scripture: God is responsible for everything in His universe, including suffering. That is the truth we are going to look at this week.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Is God Ultimately Responsible For Suffering?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.

Evan Thomas, “Their Faith And Fears,” Newsweek, September 8, 2002, https://www.newsweek.com/their-faith-and-fears-144781; Joan Glick, as quoted in Jere Longman, “Among The Heroes” (New York: Harper Perennial, 2003), 249; John G. Stackhouse Jr., “There Is An Answer To Evil,” Christianity Today, May 18, 1984, 40, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1984/may-18/refiners-fire-there-is-answer-to-evil.html.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.