The problem of evil is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. How could a loving God allow evil and suffering? It is a mistake to attempt to solve the problem of evil with one response. There are different types of evil and each type needs a different response. We can’t lump all evil into one category. There is natural evil (such as earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.) and there is moral evil (such as murder, rape, etc.). There is also the religious problem of evil which has to do with suffering. Why would God allow a righteous person to suffer? I want to look at ten reasons why God may allow suffering that John Feinberg gave in his book, The Many Faces of Evil. These responses should not be given to someone in the initial stages of suffering who needs love and care but can be used to understand why God allows suffering.
1.God may be using affliction to manifest his power.
John 9:3 shares a story about a man who was blind from birth. Why would God allow this to happen? Jesus responded by saying, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” At times, a temporary affliction may be used to show the power of God.
2. God may use affliction to remove a cause for boasting.
We may feel self-sufficient when life is good. However, in a time of suffering we may realize that we aren’t self-sufficient and that we must rely on God. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 12:7 that there was a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from exalting himself.
3. God may allow afflictions to demonstrate true or genuine faith to Satan.
Satan believed that Job only served God because his life was great. Job had all that he needed. If God were to take his blessing away from Job, Satan believed that Job would deny God. “Through Job’s afflictions and through his faithfulness to God,” Feinberg says, “Satan saw that there are those who serve God out of genuine love, not because ‘it pays to do so'” (479).
4. God may use affliction as an opportunity to demonstrate the Body of Christ concept.
1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” It is when one believer suffers that other believers see the need to help one another. Suffering helps demonstrate the Body of Christ to believers as well as unbelievers.
5. God may use affliction to promote sanctification.
It is easy to continue sinning if there are no consequences. When a person suffers because of a sinful act, he/she is more likely to resist that sin in the future. Suffering may also be used to refine one’s faith as stated in 1 Peter 1:6-7. And God also uses suffering to educate believers. Feinberg states that, “James 1:3-4, Romans 5:3-4, and 1 Peter 5:10 say that God teaches perseverance or endurance through afflictions. Likewise, Hebrews 5:8 indicates that even Christ in his humanity learned obedience through suffering” (482).
6. God may permit affliction into the life of the righteous because of the ministry that is possible in suffering.
Experiencing affliction and continuing to trust in the Lord can be a testimony to unbelievers as well as an encouragement to believers. That testimony may help others remain faithful in their own problems.
7. God may use affliction to prepare us for further trials.
As long as we live in a fallen world, we will continue to face trials. Overcoming previous difficulties will prepare us and offer hope that we are able to overcome further trials.
8. God may use affliction in believers as preparation for judgement of their works for rewards.
Feinberg says, “As we endure afflictions, we should become more Christlike. If we do, then, indeed, our lives are likely to be filled with deeds that please God… If our lives are pleasing to God, there will be reward” (485).
9. God may use the afflictions of the righteous as a basis for ultimately exalting them.
“Affliction has a way of bringing us low so that God may someday exalt us” (485). 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”
10. God may use affliction as a means to take a believer to be with himself.
“As life comes to an end, the final affliction will usher us into God’s presence… But for the believer death is the doorway to everlasting blessing in the presence of God” (486).
Suffering is not absent from a Christian’s life but should be expected. Jesus suffered for us and we are to follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). After accepting the Lord, life does not always get easier, but there is hope. Next time you are going through a difficult circumstance, instead of getting mad at God, realize that He may have a reason for allowing suffering in your life.
Feinberg, John S. The Many Faces of Evil. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004