If God is good, kind and just, why did He create this misery-laden world for His children to live in? How come He allows war, torture, mass starvation and ecological atrocities? Why is nature itself cruelly balanced by the "law of the jungle"? Did God create all this misery out of a sense of divine cruelty or sadism — or is there a logical reason for it all?
One of our Good News readers asked the following question: "If God is so just, why does He allow babies to suffer so horribly before death — for example, a baby abandoned in a garbage can to die of painful exposure or starvation, or a child trapped in a burning house, or a toddler being mauled by a mad dog? What kind of lesson does it teach these children who are too young to comprehend life?" Such penetrating questions have troubled philosophers and theologians for ages. Those of us who are parents could have trouble believing in a God who causes small children to suffer unnecessarily. In fact, it is hard to picture a Father who subjects adult human beings (His children whom He supposedly loves) to wars, starvation, plagues and martyrdom — unless there is an awfully good reason for it. One of the greatest philosophers of all time, King Solomon of ancient Israel, lamented: "... It is an unhappy business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun.... What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered" (Eccl. 1:13-15). He viewed corruption in government as one of the facts of life: "If you see in a province the poor oppressed and justice and right violently taken a way, do not be amazed at the matter; for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them" (Eccl. 5:8). He saw accidents as part of the natural order of things: "... The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all" (Eccl. 9:11). Continuing in the same cynical vein, he wrote: "What has a man from all the toil and strain with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of pain, and his work is a vexation; even in the night his mind does not rest" (Eccl. 2:22-23). Solomon "saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them!... And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive; but better than both is he who has not yet been, and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun" (Eccl. 4:1-3).
Is God an Ogre?
Along with Solomon, we too might ask why all this misery is permitted. Would it really be better never to have drawn breath? Is God some kind of sadistic monster who enjoys watching people suffer? Or is there a better explanation for this world and its sorrows? God says He loves people. John 3:16 reads: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Then why hasn't the world "been saved through him"? What is taking Him so long? You would think an all-powerful God would be able to do away with man's misery by divine fiat. Why hasn't He stopped all the suffering, or does He even want to?
Freedom of Choice
God Himself did not create evil. He looked at His creation and saw that "it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). He placed Adam and Eve in paradise, told them His ways were best, and made the "tree of life" (symbol of the immortality they could have if they went His way) readily available to them. He told them to choose the tree of life, but they ate from the forbidden tree instead. If they had eaten from the right tree, they would have symbolically chosen to obey God's laws — the only way to peace, happiness and every good result. But they chose instead to follow the way of Satan the devil. In effect, they rejected God's government and willingly placed themselves under Satan's rule. And people ever since have followed their lead, choosing to follow Satan's way rather than God's. God would rather mankind had chosen His way, but He allowed them to do their own thing (see Judges 21:25). Thus the world runs on greed, hatred, rebellion, jealousy — all the motivations that produce wars, heartache and the other assorted miseries we see around us today. "Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct" (Rom. 1:28). God didn't create this kind of world, but since we ourselves chose it He allows us to live in it. His way would have brought us peace and happiness, but He didn't want to cram it down our throats.
The Devil Made Us Do It
But we can't blame Adam alone for this world's troubles. God allowed Adam to choose, and he chose Satan's government. Now that Satan is in charge, he influences world leaders to go to war with each other (see Revelation 16:14 and Daniel 10:12-13). He is the real "god" of this world (II Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; John 12:31). He inspires great religious figures to hand down illogical, unreasonable edicts that further this world's ignorance, overpopulation, hunger and disease. Satan, appearing as an "angel of light" (II Cor. 11:14), has been the force behind every "holy war," inquisition, or crusade since the creation of mankind. In Matthew 4:8- 9, Satan offered the kingdoms of this world to Christ as a temptation. He could do this because he had them to give. In short, Satan is the one who makes this potentially fine world such a miserable place in which to live. But what good does it do for God to allow Satan free rein? Why should man have to be ruled by his mortal enemy — couldn't God have come up with something a little less painful? Since we have chosen Satan's way, God is going to let us see it through to its natural conclusion — man's ultimate total destruction unless Christ intervenes (Matt. 24:22). We ate being brought to the point where we are beginning to realize that mankind cannot solve his problems alone — that only God can rescue us from our plight. We are being given time to discover collectively and individually that Satan's way is futile; that we should have gone along with God's rule in the first place.
God's Merciful Plan
One point that many fail to understand is that God's overall plan does not include calling everyone to salvation now in this age (for more information on this, write for our free reprint article "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?"). Some people are quite concerned about the unsaved starving masses of India, the gigantic numbers of Communist Chinese who have never even heard the name of Jesus Christ; in short, every body who dies "unbaptized" or "unchurched." But all of these people are eventually going to have their chance for salvation. Those who have suffered and died, never really knowing God's way, will be resurrected to physical life in a utopian setting. This is the period of time referred to as the "white throne judgment" in Revelation 20:11-12. During this age the children who had such a rough time of it in their first life will be able to grow to adulthood. They will be able to compare the sufferings of Satan's world with the happiness of God's. They will have a chance to choose God's way for eternity, and to be changed to immortal spirit beings like Christ their elder brother (Heb. 2:11). This is the hope that kept cynical King Solomon alive — the knowledge that, although things were totally unjust in the satanic world he saw around him, "God will [finally] judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work" (Eccl. 3:17). All people, good and bad, oppressors and oppressed, will be called into account during this period of judging. If they fail to accept God's ways and repent, they will be punished (Rev. 20:14-15). And if they live righteously, they will be rewarded. The last chapter of Ecclesiastes reaffirms this basic truth: "For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Eccl. 12:14). Even Satan will eventually receive his just deserts (Rev. 20:10; Jude 13).
The End of Satan's Rule
When Christ returns at the beginning of the millennium, Satan will be imprisoned (Rev. 20:1-3), and even the nature of wild animals will be changed. God will turn lions into gentle herbivores; snakes will no longer be poisonous — "They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9). Looking back on a half-dozen or so millennia of suffering, people living then will be able to make a clear-cut comparison between the two ways of life. Even so, the lesson of history will be hard for many to digest. They will probably experiment for themselves, just like Adam and Eve. The Bible prophesies that toward the end of the millennium there will be multitudes who have experienced nothing but peace. Some may not have it clear in their minds which way is best" and these will be ripe for the picking when Satan is "loosed [for] a little season" (Rev. 20:3, 7, KJV). They will be deceived into attacking the very God who gave them peace and plenty (verse 9). They, too, will have to learn their lesson the hard way.
In the meantime, whether we realize it or not, all of us are learning now by the things we go through in this world. The more we hurt, the more disgusted we become with Satan's government — and the more determined we will be to follow God's way when it is clearly revealed to us. If we could back off and view the universe and this world from the perspective of eternity, we might come closer to comprehending why God has allowed us to take such a painful course. It may be hard for us to understand from our limited vantage point, but in God's eyes "the flesh is of no avail." Rather, "It is the spirit that gives life" (John 6:63). God cares a lot more about which way we are going to choose for eternity than He does about whether or not our physical flesh is comfortable for the moment. He is still a merciful God who hates to see us going Satan's way, but He can't stop us without totally stripping away our free moral agency. But — and here is the good news — once we have learned the lesson that His way is best, He promises to do away with all suffering. He "shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4, KJV). So yes, this world with all its ugliness really is necessary. It is an integral part of a wisely thought-out plan. But once it has served its purpose, it will be replaced by a new earth filled with peace.