The Forgotten “WHYs”

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The Forgotten “WHYs”

 James R. Aist

“We know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22)

Why is there rampant evil and suffering in a world created by a sovereign, loving and perfectly moral God? In other words, why do hatred, murder, so-called acts of God (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fire, etc.), lying, stealing, betrayal, pride, greed, poverty, injustice, racism, suffering and political corruption abound, if a good God created the world to be “very good”? Inquiring minds want to know why.

It occurs to me that, as life on this planet becomes seemingly more and more fraught with evil of one kind or another, it is God who is being blamed for these various trials and tribulations. I suppose that is partly due to the fact that the God of the Bible is all-powerful (omnipotent), and could, at least theoretically, put an end to all of it at any time, if only He really wanted to. Although much of human suffering is actually a direct result of human choices and actions, far too few of us are willing to take responsibility for our part in it. It is too convenient to just blame God and acquit ourselves of any wrongdoing. We may ask “Why?”, and then quickly point a finger at God.

I am not claiming to know fully why it is that God allows such evil and suffering to continue in this present age. But the specific questions I want to address here are 1) “Did something happen in the Garden of Eden that changed the dwelling place of man from a utopia to a dangerous, burdensome and painful abode?” and 2) “Who is really behind all of this suffering?” Of course, the answers to these questions are not a mystery to those of us who are familiar with the Word of God (the Holy Bible) and believe what it says. But the younger generations are increasingly looking everywhere except the Bible to find answers to these important questions. And if God even enters their process of searching for answers, it is ultimately to blame God, rather than to seek real answers where they may be found; i.e., in the Bible. So, let’s see if we can shed some fresh light on this question and stop “passing the buck” by blaming God. If you really want to know “why” there is so much evil and suffering in this world, then here are some of the “WHYs.”

The Perfect Beginning

Let’s begin at the beginning. The God of the Bible, the One who created the Universe, is, in fact, morally perfect. And, as one would expect, His finished work of creation was also perfect (complete and without flaw), as attested by His description of it as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The first two human beings, Adam and Eve, were also created as morally perfect creatures. They apparently had a close, personal relationship with their Creator, being accustomed to walking and talking with Him in the cool of the day, as implied in Genesis 3:8-10. They had no knowledge of good or evil, and all was well in the Garden of Eden. But then, something went terribly wrong. To fully understand and comprehend the impact of what was to follow, we must bear in mind that Adam and Eve, as the first human beings, were representative of all humans who followed, including us. As progeny of Adam, we have inherited the kind of world he left for us.    

Remember “The “Fall”!

“Satan lured Adam and Eve to compromise one single act, one slip of holiness, and from there he has brought unspeakable carnage to the human race and to the earth.” – John Eldredge, “The Utter Relief of Holiness”

One day Adam and Eve were persuaded, by the lies of Satan, to disobey God, thus committing what is known as the “original sin.” They were no longer morally perfect, having fallen from their morally perfect condition, and they had to be cast out of the presence of the holy God because of it (Genesis 3:23-24). This changed everything, as Adam and Eve soon learned that there is a big price to be paid for disobeying God. And we are still paying this price today; we have inherited, so to speak, from Adam a “sin nature”, an inborn desire to reject God’s provision and follow our own path in life. That, my friends, provides a basic explanation for what we commonly refer to as “man’s inhumanity to man”, which includes such things as hatred, murder, lying, stealing, betrayal, greed, racism, poverty and injustice.

And there is another dimension to the consequences of the Fall, as eloquently explained by David Limbaugh in “The Emmaus Code”: “…the one thing that best revitalizes my faith during intermittent moments of doubt is, paradoxically, the pervasiveness of evil, suffering, and despair that we see all around us, and the inexplicably twisted values that increasingly define our culture. This unfathomability of the human condition, this perverse moral inversion we witness, this willing abandonment of logic and distortion of the language, cannot possibly be understood, in my view, apart from the Bible. Without the Bible, none of this makes any sense to me, but with it, I see how sin entered the world in the fall and how it has corrupted God’s perfect creation.” So we can see that the inexplicably twisted values, the perverse moral inversion, the willing abandonment of logic and the distortion of the language, which so many of us have run up against in trying to resist the liberalism and progressivism that increasingly define our culture, are also consequences of sin entering the world in the Garden of Eden.

The “Curses”

In response to this original sin, God pronounced curses on the Devil, on Adam and Eve, and on the whole of creation (Genesis 3:14-20). Not only were Adam and Eve (and us, by extension) banished from the presence of God, but Adam would now have to eke out a living by hard labor and the sweat of his brow, and Eve would experience greatly multiplied pain in childbirth and submission to her husband. But, perhaps the most significant curse of all is that Adam and Eve (and, by extension, us) were to suffer both spiritual death (separation from God) and physical death (return to dust, Genesis 3:19).

Even the ground itself was cursed because of Adam’s sin, for from now on it would bring forth thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:17-18) in place of edible food. In this regard, the Apostle Paul had this to add: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now” (Romans 8:20-22). And so here we have the basic explanation for so-called “acts of God” (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, etc.) and, most likely, for political corruption as well: the whole of creation is being subjected to “futility”, to “slavery to corruption”, to “groaning” and to “travailing in pain.” We may not know for sure everything that Paul is referring to here, but we do know for sure that it is all bad and all a result of sin entering the world.

But, there’s even more to it than this, much more.

The Prince

In trying to understand why evil and suffering are so rampant in the world, we mustn’t overlook the one who started all the trouble in the first place: ol’ “slew foot” himself, Satan. When Satan rebelled against God, he was cast down to the earth (Job 1:7 and 2:2, Isaiah 14:13, Luke 10:18 and 1 Peter 5:8). And, as part of the curse on Satan following Adam’s original sin, God said “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring” (Genesis 3:15). This is why the Bible refers to Satan as “the enemy of our souls” (Psalm 143:3). For the time being, he is the Prince of this world (John 14; 30) the Prince of the air of this world (Ephesians 2:2), meaning that he has power and considerable influence over worldly affairs, including the affairs of mankind. Jesus said of him that he comes only to kill, to steal and to destroy (John 10:10). And Peter warned us to “Be sober and watchful, because your adversary the devil walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Rest assured, then, that the devil, Satan, and his minions, are ultimately behind much, if not most, of “man’s inhumanity to man.” The Apostle Paul put it this way: “For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). While man’s sinful nature is clearly at work here, Satan is hard at work also, usually behind the scenes, to encourage, amplify, multiply and reward our sinful deeds.

The Promise

At this point, you may wonder if this morally perfect God will ever set things right and restore His Creation to its original, perfect condition. The answer is, “Yes, He will eventually do just that.” God promised to do this when He said to Satan “…he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15), a clear reference to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the offspring of Eve. When Jesus came the first time as the sacrificial Lamb of God to pay the price (death) for our sins (John 1:29), He set this restoration process in motion. When he comes again, He will complete the restoration by judging all of mankind (Matthew 25:31-46) and rewarding each, even Christians (2 Corinthians 5:10), according to his deeds – whether good or bad – and ushering in a new heaven and a new earth where justice, righteousness and peace will prevail forevermore (Revelation 221:1-8), to the glory of God.

The Waits

“Justice delayed is not justice denied.” – Raymond F. Culpepper

But, you may ask, “If God intends to restore His creation to its original, perfect condition, why is He waiting so long to do it?” There are actually two questions here: 1) “Why did He wait so long to send Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, to pay the price for our sins?”; and 2) “Why is He waiting so long to send Him back as the Lion of Judah to conquer evil and establish His perfect Kingdom here on earth?”

I am not aware that the Bible clearly addresses the first question directly, but it does talk about “the fullness of time” and “the time is fulfilled” in reference to the timing of Jesus’ First Coming (Galatians 4:4-5; Mark 1:14-15; and Ephesians 1:7-10). And, in reference to the timing of His Second Coming, Jesus said “It is not for you to know the times or the dates, which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” So, we can surmise that God, in His sovereignty, set the timing of Jesus First Coming in order to best fulfill His divine plan of salvation. Personally, I am inclined to speculate that God was waiting until His relationship with His chosen people, Israel, had been fully and firmly established and formalized before bringing Jesus onto the scene bodily, so as to fully verify Jesus as the promised Messiah and to facilitate the rapid establishment of the Christian church.

This brings us to the second question: “Why is God waiting so long to send Jesus back as the Lion of Judah to conquer evil and establish His perfect Kingdom here on earth?” This is also a tough question to answer fully. The Apostle Peter, however, offers this explanation: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). But, who is the “everyone” to whom Peter refers here? I believe the Apostle Paul has provided a clue: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). Taken together, these scriptures seem to imply that God has a particular number of persons in mind to be saved, and He will not complete the restoration until that number of people has been saved. This may be a new teaching to some, and it may seem harsh, but keep in mind that if God does not, at some point in time, close the door to heaven, then the end time events will never be completed, because, for one reason or another, there will always be people who are not yet saved.

Summary

One need only look to the Bible to get a basic understanding of why evil and suffering are so rampant in today’s world. The fall of man, original sin, the sin nature of man, the resultant curses and the Prince of the air of this world (These are the forgotten “WHYs”) have all conspired to put the world in the godless, degenerate and immoral condition it is in. But God is already in the process of restoring the world to its original, good and moral condition through the initial work of Jesus on the earth and the continuing work of His disciples, including you and me. When Jesus comes again and the “full number” of people (as determined by and known only to God) has been saved, He will complete the process.

Are you one of those people God will save? What are you waiting for? Stop running from God, and let Him save you today!

(To read more Bible Teachings by Professor Aist, click HERE.)

Some Thoughts on Suffering

A tornado near Seymour, TexasSome Thoughts on Suffering

James R. Aist

“The way to deal with suffering in any form – from the mildest irritation to the mental and physical agony that so absorbs and overwhelms you that you groan and scream – is to offer it to God who has permitted it, telling Him to make what He wills of it, and of us through it.” – John Eldredge

Introduction

I’m not an expert on the topic of how to deal with suffering, and I doubt that I have anything really new to say about it. And I do not have the definitive answers that most people yearn for. But I do have experience with serious suffering, having been forced to suffer through a deeply painful divorce that broke up my family, and having had to deal with the death of my 20 year-old daughter who was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street. And, I tend to process and analyze thoroughly my experiences with suffering, rather than just dismiss them quickly and move on. So, perhaps, something I say here, or how I say it, will be helpful, at least in some small way, to you or someone you know who is suffering with a loss or a personal tragedy. For those of us with a Christian world view, one of the first thoughts that pops into our head when we are suffering is, “Why did God allow that to happen?” So, let’s start there.

God Has a Reason

The week following the death and burial of my daughter was a week out of Hell. I was numb, so stunned and emotionally drained that I couldn’t even go to work. All I could do was to sit in my recliner in the corner of the living room and rehearse the events of the past week. The unthinkable had happened, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Now, I’m usually not one to ask God “Why did you allow this to happen?”, but at one point during that week I was hurting so bad that this question was about to come out of my mouth. At that moment, I was stopped by the Holy Spirit with these thoughts that rushed through my mind: “You don’t need to know why. You know God well enough to trust that He has a good reason.” Suddenly, a peace came over me, and I no longer felt the need to ask “why?” God paints with a broader brush than we can even imagine. Put another way, God is sovereign over His entire creation and knows the end from the beginning. And, sometimes, in order to accomplish a greater good, He has to allow us to suffer in this life. Even if He were to explain it to us, I doubt that we would be capable of understanding the explanation, much less of accepting it as sufficient. Sometimes we just have to trust God to have a good reason, even if it hurts terribly and we can’t even imagine what that good reason might be.

God Does Not Delight in Suffering

 “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22:24).

In the Garden of Eden there was no suffering; that is, until Adam and Eve sinned against God. Then the whole creation, including mankind, came under a curse. As a result, sin, suffering and death became the lot of mankind in this life. Suffering is a result of sin entering the world through Adam (Romans 8:18-23). But one day, God will create a new heaven and a new earth in which the original conditions of His creation will be restored. Then there will be no more sin, no more death and no more suffering (Revelation 21:4). That is the heart and will of God toward His chosen ones, and that is the promised future for all born-again Christians.

Jesus Was a Sufferer

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”
(Isaiah 53:3)

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering.”
(Isaiah 53:4)

Because Jesus experienced the most extreme and unjust kinds of suffering, He knows what we are going through. He invites us to cast all our cares upon Him, including our sufferings, because He cares for us and He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7).

Finding the Silver Lining

Suffering can be a good teacher. My brother, Gene, used to say, “Some people live and learn; others just live.” I’m more of a live and learn kind of guy. Although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I learned a lot from going through the divorce with my first wife. I learned what is most important to me in choosing a spouse. I learned what the roles of a Godly husband are. And I learned how to be strong in a marriage relationship. Ok, I’ll admit that there are less painful ways to learn those things, but, for some of us, it turns out that suffering through a divorce is just what it takes to motivate us sufficiently. I was determined not to make the same mistakes again. And I didn’t.

Suffering can also be a good trainer. In order to be a more effective and understanding high priest, Jesus was made like us,fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and … Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:16-18). In the same way, to the extent that we learn positive lessons from our suffering, we are made wiser, more compassionate and better able to minister effectively to others who are suffering. Granted, we are not likely to be thinking along these lines while we are going through the suffering, but this can be a silver lining that appears later around the edges of our storm cloud of suffering.

And finally, suffering can produce a harvest of undeniable good. Until a couple of years ago, I struggled to find any good that can come from a long, painful and seemingly undignified illness, such as often happens with cancer patients. Death comes without any easily identifiable good resulting from such prolonged agony. Then I heard an exceptional, true story that changed my mind. An elderly, born-again lady was suffering from cancer for six months and was under sedation for severe pain most of the time. In her hospital room, she drifted in and out of consciousness, mostly out. But during this time, something extraordinary happened. Her family began to sense a very strong presence of the Holy Spirit in her room every time they came to visit. The hospital staff began to sense the same thing. The born-again Christians among them were able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all who came into the room. Word of this spiritual experience spread among the staff, and more and more of them came into the room to find out for themselves. By the time the lady finally passed away, 18 people had received Christ as their Lord and Savior because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in her hospital room and the faithful obedience of the believers present! Now, this may sound presumptuous, but I can only imagine that this is one cancer patient who would agree that her suffering was well worth the harvest of saved souls that resulted from it.

Knowing When to Quit

When tragedy happens, it is normal — perhaps necessary – to try to understand why it happened, or why God allowed it, or if there is any good thing that can possibly come of it. I believe it can be a good thing to attempt to find answers to these important questions. Sometimes, one can come to, at least, a tentative answer that is satisfying to some extent. But, at some point, chasing these elusive answers gets to the point of diminishing returns. We find ourselves retracing our thoughts without any new revelations or any greater understanding than came to light the last time we agonized over the same thing. That’s a good time to practice self control and quit trying to figure it out. It’s time to force ourselves to focus on moving on, and to just let it be what it is.

Keeping the Faith

If you’re angry with God, you believe in Him. So trust in Him too. He has a good reason for whatever He allows in your life.

Sometimes, people get so angry with God for allowing something really bad to happen to people they know and love that they turn against Him, abandon their faith and break off fellowship with Christian friends. Nothing good can come from such a reaction. When this happens, it’s a good time to re-examine your knowledge and understanding of God and the nature of the faith that you did have. Was yours a natural faith contingent upon God pretty much doing what you want Him to do, or was it a supernatural faith based on a genuine, born-again experience? If you were born again, then you will not really abandon your faith; God will guard your heart and your mind and preserve your faith. You just have to stand firm until the storm passes.

Jesus didn’t promise us a “rose garden” in our Christian walk here on earth. But, He did say, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). So, hang on to your faith in Jesus no matter what happens in this world. That is the most precious of your possessions, and the one you can least afford to walk away from. Your eternal destiny is hanging in the balance.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)