Tag Archive: WHY DO WE SUFFER?


You stub your toe on a table leg. You passionately address the table, and perhaps even the gods who you may not believe in, with certain derogatory words and accusations which your mother would never have approved of…

You wonder why the gods allowed your throbbing toe to make contact with such a solid object at all. Couldn’t they have moved the table aside one second before contact?

Why does the Biblical God allow us to suffer? Isn’t he a God of love? Why, if He’s omnipresent and omnipotent, isn’t he one step ahead of us, preventing all the terrible things which happen in our world every day? There are a number of answers to this, which none of us like. We can’t know them all, but we can know some of them…

First of all, God created a physical universe for physical beings to live in, and a physical universe must have natural laws to govern it. Why would God create a physical universe, and then negate its natural laws? If you drop a concrete slab, you can be sure that gravity will rapidly draw it with some considerable force and momentum towards your toe, already bruised and throbbing after its connection with the table leg.

We don’t know whether Adam and Eve, before the Fall, were susceptible to concrete slabs dropping on their toes. We do know, however, that once they began to rebel, they were susceptible to anything including death:

“For in the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die.”

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Something happened when Adam disobeyed God, and he began to die, just as God had warned him he would. It took him a long time to die, but die he did, as a direct consequence of his disobedience. His disobedience, and later our own, led to our downfall also. It doesn’t take us so long to die as it took him, because he was still a fresh and extremely healthy creation. We Christians-those of us who believe the Bible-talk about the Fall of man and of nature, at which time humans and all of creation became subject to adverse events and circumstances. When Cain struck down Abel, God didn’t stop him…God let Cain do it. Why did he? Why didn’t God say, “Hey Abel! Look out-your brother has a knife!” Why didn’t he make whatever weapon Cain used turn to dust before it could do the dirty deed?

Since the Fall God has intentionally allowed us to face consequences: consequences of our own actions and of others’ actions; consequences of natural laws such as gravity, and consequences of the fall of nature, so that our bodies degrade and become ill. There can only be one alternative to perfect health forever, and that’s illness, decline and death. God refuses to allow fallen man-in rebellion and disobedience-to live forever, or to live without natural consequences.

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Free will is an amazing gift to us from God, as a vital part of His creation. God wants man to have his own mind and spirit, and to choose to love Him and each other, rather than creating him with robotic compliance. However, free will comes at a price. It’s the driving force behind all the hatred, unrest, unhappiness and evil we see playing out in our world. If God had turned Cain’s weapon to dust before it killed Abel, Cain would no longer have free will. If God froze our tongue moments before we made our feelings clear to someone, in the process hurting them, we would no longer have free will.

In suffering we learn and grow. If there were no consequences to our actions and our words, we would not learn to control them. We would not mature. We would remain like children in our character.

Perhaps the hardest lesson for us all to learn is that it’s God’s will that we suffer, in this world. He-not the devil- instituted the Curse. The Curse is one of those natural laws that God created. It affects all of creation. He’s able to negate those laws when he sees fit (in what we call a “miracle”) but for the most part, it’s His will that we endure suffering. How we respond to that suffering and those challenges is of great interest to God. It’s how God, and everyone else, finds out what we’re really made of. Even Jesus Christ was sent into the wilderness, by the Holy Spirit of God, to be tempted. In the Bible the words “tempt” and “test” are interchangeable.

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To that end, God even allows that rebellious spirit-Satan-to test us. You only need to read the story of Job to see that. Satan is able to afflict us physically and to sorely test us mentally and spiritually-if he receives permission from God to do so. While Satan probably doesn’t afflict all of us directly (he has his own minions) his hateful exploits have devastating affects on our world. But the most important message of Job’s story is that God-and Satan-were vitally interested in how Job would react to his suffering. What was he really like inside? What were his real motives for acting as he did, and for claiming to care about his creator? Did he really love God? Would he maintain his humility before God? Had he really only been following the Lord because life had been rich and trouble-free, or was it because he saw the Lord as his Master, for better or for worse? In marriage our love for our spouse is put to the test and seen for what it really is when we have problems and disagreements, not when all is going well.

God knows that human nature is contrary to His, and that even if He made sure that everything went smoothly for us, we would not feel the need to seek Him. In fact, in many or most cases we humans will only seek God, and humble ourselves to him, when we are suffering or struggling in some way. Somehow, God knows that we grow spiritually under adverse conditions.

Our universe is temporary, and this physical, limited world we live in is a proving ground for all of us. In time, we will be judged for our responses and actions. The most relevant fact that we need to respond positively to is that God has provided his own Son as a sacrifice, so that we can know Him. If we accept God’s gift of his Son, we can escape the limitations of our mortal, temporary bodies in the future, when he will restore all of nature to a state of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the countless reasons people give for not having faith in the God of the Bible is that He’s cruel, angry and sadistic. Are they right?

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Perhaps the most important answer to this question is that the universe is not a democracy. The God of the Bible created it and sustains it. He has no equal, and He therefore has every right to do with it what he wants to do. God is God, and we are not. Not only that, be we can’t stop him doing what he wants to do. So perhaps the question should be worded differently: Can I believe that there is a God such as this, one who appears to be so cruel?

Surely, even if God were terribly cruel and sadistic, the fact would not rule out the reality of his existence, except perhaps from the point of view that no all-powerful being who is also mean and sadistic could or would create and maintain such an amazing and  beautiful cosmos. So then the question must be more correctly worded this way:

Is God so cruel that I don’t want to know him?

Here we’re getting down to the nub of the problem, because such questions are usually-but not always-thrown out as an argument from people who have no desire to know God in the first place. It’s a cop-out; an excuse.

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But what about it: is the God of the Bible cruel? He doesn’t claim to be cruel. In fact, scripture says that, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

The gospel is all about the love of God for the pinnacle of his creation-mankind. He didn’t send his son to condemn the world, but to save it.

What about suffering? Why, if there is a God of love, do humans suffer so much, and then die? This is a subject for another post, and I’ve answered this question to the best of my ability in several posts. Please see the links below *

The skeptic will raise the subjects of God’s treatment of the Canaanites and the ancient Israelites, and the whole concept of hell.

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God told the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites under the leadership of Joshua, including women and children. This is seen as extreme cruelty. The charge is made by people who are either ignorant of all the facts, or who are determined to deny God the right to decide how mankind will behave on his earth. The Canaanites had descended to the lowest pits of human depravity, so that they were sacrificing their own children to their idols. They had abandoned their creator and were worshiping wood and stone. They were engaging in every depraved activity they could imagine. And God did not suddenly decide to swat the Canaanites without giving them a chance to change. In fact, he gave them more than four hundred years to repent (Genesis chapter 15).

We humans don’t have a “right” to do what we want without consequence, because we are owned by our maker. Our maker has standards. I’m personally very thankful for that. How could The master mathematician, biologist, scientist and philosopher, not have standards? Why should he not want to enforce and maintain those standards? Does he not have a right to run his universe his way?

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And what about hell? Is the concept really so awful? Well, it certainly is awful for anyone who may go there. But suppose for  now, if you don’t believe, that God is indeed our creator and the creator of our universe, as the Bible claims he is. Where then can those people go who do not want to know their creator and refuse to adhere to his standards? Where can they go, if once having failed his standards, they then refuse his mercy also? Can they create their own universe? Can they go and settle another part of his universe? Unfortunately, God cannot, according to his nature, tolerate willing rebellion, anywhere in his creation.

He therefore has a special place reserved which we call “hell”, away from Him and the universe which those who love him will inhabit. Without God Hell can have no light, no love, no comforts, no hope, no fun, no beauty. It can only be a terrible place without God. Choose Him or lose Him and all his benefits.

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There is, therefore, no part of His universe people can move to to escape his will. And if he sent everyone, against their will, to his heaven, it would be mean to those people who hate him, his ways, and his people, to make them endure all three for all eternity. Not only that, but it would be cruel also to those who do love him and his ways, to then have to endure the godless for all eternity. Heaven would be just like the earth is now, with war, aggression, immorality, hatred, abuse, decadence, and all the evils men and women perpetrate upon each other.

The  Bible says that “God is love”. God created love, and God is love. But that doesn’t preclude the need for right, wrong, and the necessary judgment of wrongdoing. God is as just as he is loving, and the two go hand in hand perfectly. True justice is as beautiful as is true love, for all eternity. Glory to God!

*Below is a link to the first part of my series on the subject of suffering. You can search for subsequent parts in the search box above, using the words “Why do we suffer? Part 2”, Part 3, etc. You can pay a lot for some “expert’s” book on the topic, or you can read these for nothing:

https://nickyfisher.com/2017/05/31/why-do-we-suffer-part-1/

What do you do when you’re down and troubled? Do you cuddle the dog? Do you put the TV on? Do you pop a pill or light a joint?

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We’ve probably all had someone tell us when we’re down that there are people worse off than us. That’s supposed to cheer us up. But as a 20th century British comedian, Peter Cook, observed, that just makes us feel bad about the other people as well.

One thing that’s helped me in recent times of feeling down is facing up to the fact that I’m feeling down. And with it I’ve also found comfort in the fact, after all, that others are suffering. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing to suffer, and I’m not saying that we should wallow in our trouble, or that we should not cuddle the dog or do something to “shake out of it”. But there’s a very real sense in which knowing that humanity is born into trouble and suffering, and that just being alive exposes us all to the consequences of being in a fallen world of nature and people…is half of the cure. It’s normal. It’s not an aberration to be down and troubled: it’s natural. It’s part of who we are. It’s life. It’s reality. It’s what humans do.

The other half of the cure (the subject of the third part of my “dark side” series, still to come) is stated clearly in this New Testament quote from Jesus Christ:

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 NIV).

By facing up to the reality of our human plight, we can also find the answer to it, in Jesus Christ.

We suffer as does all life on earth. Neo-Darwinists put this down to evolution, and if that’s true then suffering, trouble and problems are natural and normal and we have nothing to complain about-we can just attempt to minimize them.

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Under evolution the strong and the beautiful should survive and procreate and the rest of us should bow out. However, if there’s a person we call God who created us, he either allows suffering, or he is unable to stop it, or he causes at least some of it himself…or there’s another explanation we don’t consider.

If we just ignore God by saying that he’s unknowable, as many people do, we will never come to an understanding of suffering. In complete contrast, the God of the Bible claims to have inspired a Book explaining much of what we suffer and why: you can take it or leave it. From my experience the Bible is trustworthy and stands up to reason and testing. More than that, if God is God, we are not. He is far above us in intellect, power and standards. We can’t ignore God indefinitely. We can’t go off and form our own universe: we’re totally at his mercy, and so we need to somehow understand our plight and come to terms with it.

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Does God have a dark side? Does the Creator who made this beautiful, amazing world, along with our incredible bodies, brains and minds, hate his creation and wish us all harm? I’m here to argue that the opposite is true.

Biblically speaking, the events and conditions which may appear to us to be the result of a pernicious, unreliable, inattentive and unpredictable God can be for the most part explained. Unfortunately most of us fail to look, or fail to accept what our God has told us. Consequently we have, for example, some people-Christians-believing that everything that goes wrong in life is the action of the devil who has free reign, while God goes around attempting to fix things, but only for those who can work up enough faith. This is wrong and un-Biblical.

Our creator has standards which we as humans have consistently broken from the very start. If we were perfect, there would be no problems whatsoever. So what can we do? Its impossible to be perfect, and those who think they are are just fooling themselves. It’s important here to consider that God gave man free will. This explains the choice of whether or not to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. God gave us the dignity of making our own choices, and he wanted us to love him by choice, rather than by creating a world of robots which are programmed to act a certain way.

You may ask, as we all do from time to time, why God doesn’t at least step in and patch up the problems. I think that sometimes he does, and that’s where prayer comes in. However, God has apparently decided to let nature-which he created after all-to run its course. The ultimate cure to suffering; the resolution; the fix, will come, but it’s still future.  Many of my brothers and sisters in the faith will complain to me that Jesus has already implemented the fix. With respect, look around you, look at the news, look in the hospitals.

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Here then is a partial list of the Bible’s explanations for suffering and trouble in the world.

  • The CURSE.  A perfect God would not allow imperfect man to live life his own way in disobedience. The choices and actions of man have brought a curse on a world which was once perfect. The curse affects our bodies, our minds, and all of nature. Nature is running down. It’s the reason we get sick and die, because God will not allow rebellious mankind to steal his world and live forever in it. Try to imagine some of the worst characters you’ve heard of living forever.
  • GOD’S JUDGMENT. God is patient with us, but eventually sends judgment and trouble upon a rebellious nation, city or individual.
  • TESTING. We’re all tested throughout life to assess and reveal the condition of our hearts.
  • THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR ACTIONS. We hurt others and they hurt us. Admit it-we’ve all done it, and we all know people who have hurt us. The prisons are full of the evidence of this (as is Washington!).
  • THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING GOD. By consistently rejecting him and his pattern for a happy healthy life, we’re not always protected by his providence or mercy. This applies to nations, cities and individuals. By going our own way persistently, we’re inviting trouble. It’s like driving a Ferrari over ploughed fields and rocks-eventually something is going to go wrong.
  • SATAN, a created angel, and the spirit beings who have sided with him are against us because they hate God and his creation.
  • DISCIPLINE. God disciplines those he loves in order to make us more like Him.
  • HUMBLING. Sometimes only suffering breaks our pride.
  • A WAKE UP CALL. Sometimes only suffering gets our attention. Our cleansing and refinement is more important than our comfort and ease.
  • MURPHY’S LAW/ Sod’s Law/ Fate/ Determinism/ Bad luck. (See my post on Murphy’s Law).

Here I’ve explained some of the reasons why we suffer and why God allows it, but I haven’t yet discussed the antidote. That will come next time. Thanks for reading.

All ye who are weak and squeamish… all ye who are already teetering on the edge of that great chasm of despair…all ye who cannot bear to see truth in all its gory frightening detail…be warned! Herein lies your very own darkest nightmare! Enter ye not without strength, fortitude and courage…!

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Greetings, fellow travelers in time and space! I established in my last post the sense that even if God doesn’t have a “dark side” to his nature, it certainly seems like he has. Just look at the trouble and suffering we see all around us. Look at all the wars and commotion in the Bible. And why, in Heaven’s name, does God admit in Scripture to even causing some of the suffering directly? It’s enough to provide an excuse for millions to ignore God or pretend God doesn’t exist, and for many more to turn away from the faith or be weakened. Surely an all-powerful, all-loving God would stop us from suffering, wouldn’t he?

This human tendency to blame God for everything which isn’t according to our own plans and schemes is starkly conveyed in the Bible book of Job. For those who don’t know, Job was a good man, and also very prosperous. Satan accused God of spoiling Job. Surely if Job’s life was tougher, he reasoned, Job would turn against God. Job, claimed Satan, was “only in it for the money”. God then allowed Satan to give Job a very bad time in many tangible ways. Job seemed to be totally unaware of Satan’s involvement in his afflictions and even of Satan’s existence. He put the blame for his dire circumstances squarely on God, and felt like God had turned on him and viciously attacked him without a good reason.

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Here I must declare that I’m not one of those who thinks that anytime something goes wrong it’s the devil causing the problem. Neither does the devil make us do wrong. There are many reasons why we suffer: I’ve written about some of them in my series “Why Do We Suffer”, and I’m convinced that most of our problems are not direct attacks from the truly “dark side” of the spirit world.

What I’ve never personally heard in any preaching or teaching on the story of Job is this question, or any answer to it: Why did God draw Satan’s attention to Job in the first place? Couldn’t God have just kept Satan’s attention away from Job? Or then, once Satan’s sick and dastardly ire was aroused, couldn’t God have just told Satan exactly where he could go, i.e. the Lake of Fire? But instead, God called Satan’s attention to Job-virtually inviting him to pick on the poor guy, and then gave Satan the go-ahead to seriously afflict Job and his entire family, to see what Job’s reaction would be.

I hate to say this, but we could probably spot many similar situations in the Bible. And such questions apply to our own lives and times, don’t they? They’re the same questions, essentially, as I outlined in the first paragraph.

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But this is dark stuff indeed! This is where many or most Christian ministers fear to tread, as do most believers. This, dear reader, is one of those matters we all refuse to even consider for a moment, because it’s just too horrible. It’s like Luke having to face Darth Vader while being trained by Yoda, or Rey having to face the truth about her parents and herself while being trained by Luke. Yes, we’re back to the Star Wars analogy!

How can we even imagine that a God who we are told is both “Love” and “Light” would allow or even encourage the most evil creature in the universe to put any of us to the test! It seems almost like we as humans are the subject of some enormous game, or in a freak show, or that we’re entertainment for our cosmic spiritual masters!

Ah, but before you believers give up on me and dismiss me as a snake in the grass, and accuse me of pouring discouragement upon you, I will here clearly state that I’m certain that “God is Love” and that “God is Light”. There is an ultimate resolution-an ultimate and entirely good “balance” to all things. Here we are considering the great paradox-the problem and the question all humans at one time or another wrestle with: God loves his world and his creation, yet also allows the dark side of our existence to take its course.

There is a way through (but not around) the dark side of our universe, and there will be a time when Light and light alone will prevail. There is an answer to our problems, and no, God is not both light and darkness. However, I’m sorry to say that the resolution will not be discussed today! Come back for part three!

 

 

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