What is the Bible’s Answer for the ‘Problem of Suffering’?

If you look at the Bible for answers to the question, “why does God permit evil‟, I am not sure that you will find any really straightforward, definite answers. For example, Paul says, “he fills up in his own person or body what is lacking in the sacrifice of Christ.” But I do not know if that is really a response to the question, “why does God permit evil‟. I think though that the Bible does show us how one should think about evil. It is not the case that you have to have an answer to this question in order to think about it appropriately.

Look at the book of Job, for example. Here we have Job who is a righteous man and a good man, as it says in the beginning. Then there is a transaction between God and Satan that Job has no knowledge of, which results in Job being afflicted; and he suffers mightily for a long time. His children are killed; he is covered in boils; and he winds up sitting in an ash heap scratching himself with potsherds. Job is in serious trouble. Along come his three friends: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They sit around the fire for about a week, and no one says anything. They are just hunkered around the fire, maybe sighing in sympathy with Job. Finally, they start telling him that he must be really wicked for God to afflict him this way. Job knows that everybody is sinful and he is no worse than they are. He knows he is not being afflicted because he is so much worse than the average guy. Job then starts getting testy with God. He wants to go to court with God. But then Job realizes that if he went to court with God, then God would be the judge, the jury, and the prosecutor – and maybe even the executioner. He is still angry with God though. He wishes he can get this resolved in a just fashion because he is not being treated fairly by God. God is not treating him right. After some time, God comes to Job and says, “What makes you think you know so much? Were you there when I created the world? Were you there when the morning stars sang together and all the suns of God shouted for joy? Can you do this? Can you do that?” Job then sees what God is really like. He gets a real perception of God’s greatness, goodness, knowledge, justice and beauty; and he says, “I was wrong. I should not have been rebelling or calling you into account Now I see what you are really like.” So Job never finds out why God permits evil. God does not say, “Here is why I do it – for these reasons.” But God does show Job what his own person is like, and that is enough. Then Job sees that God must have a good reason. Job does not know what it is, but he knows God has a good reason.

Seems to me that this is the same way it is for Christians. We do not know why God permits this evil, but we do know something about God of the same sort that Job was shown. We know by virtue of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus that even if we do not know why God permits evil, he Himself is willing to suffer in order to enable us to once more be in a proper relationship with Him. He is in it with us, so to speak. It is not as if He has got these really far off great ideas and plans that call for us to suffer, and that is the end of it. No, He suffers with us. Once we see that enormous, marvel of the story of incarnation and atonement – that God, Himself, the first being of the universe, was willing to suffer on our account – then we still do not know why God permits evil; but we have a way to think about it that makes it seem alright. We do not know why it happens. What happens is wrong, bad, and so on. But we have a way to think about it.