This is a question that has plagued the human race since its inception. Countless books and commentaries have been written on the subject. In seminary, I wrote a very long paper on this subject. Perhaps what I say in this particular blog, in six paragraphs may help you where you’re at today.
First, I believe it is only through our faith that we can begin to understand the complexities of God’s nature and accept the truth as his Word reveals. The Bible makes it clear that God is good (Nah. 1:7) and is opposed to evil (Jer. 44:4; Zech. 8:17; James 1:13). Scripture says, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” (Ps. 92:15). Murder, pornography, abuse, and addiction exist because people have chosen to turn away from God to pursue self-centered desires instead of blessings offered through faith in Jesus Christ.
Yes, God is sovereign over evil just as he is over good. He could intervene in every human tragedy and trial. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he doesn’t. God should never be credited with evil. Each person is accountable for their own sin despite God’s sovereignty. Timothy said, “This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things [speaking of the Christ] are clear enough” (1 Tim. 3:16, MSG).
When we talk about suffering someone will always point to Roman 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). It is reassuring to know that when God does allow suffering he is accomplishing something good out of it: perseverance, maturity, Christlikeness, a godly character; while assuring us that we are his beloved and precious children. I like to hang onto these promises:
Job said, “But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction” (36:15).
“Now, this is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid, because I have reclaimed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through the sea, I am with you. When you go through rivers, they will not sweep you away. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, and the flames will not harm you” (Isaiah 43:1-2, GW).
Someday when we get to heaven the entire picture will be revealed. It is important to keep an eternal perspective when we go through trials and suffering. Mediate on this verse: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Dr. J. Carl Laney, one of my professors at Western Seminary once said that God recognizes that sometimes greater glory will come to his name by permitting evil rather than disallowing it all together. It is hard to understand from a human perspective why God allows human suffering for the purpose of bringing greater glory to himself. But if the purpose of our lives is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31) then we can accept suffering in order to exhibit more adequately the greatness of our God.
“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete. If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.”
[James 1:2-7, TLB]