I think everyone who believes in God has had times when they questioned God because of all of the evil and all of the suffering in the world, and people who don't believe in God wonder why they should believe in a God who allows such cruelty in the world and doesn't even spare those who believe in Him. The question as to why God allows pain and suffering is not a new question by any means and it is not an easy or simple question to answer. The answer to this question is complex and multi-faceted.
Due to the depth of the topic, this podcast will be longer than the previous ones, but by the end I hope to have shed some light on why God allows bad things to happen.
The Greek philosopher Epicurus (born 341 BC, died 270 BC) posed what is probably the most well known and elegantly put question on the morality and power of God.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
"Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
"Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
"Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
The first question Epicurus posed was, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?" and followed it up the the statement, "Then he is not omnipotent."
Epicurus is correct in that if God were unable to get rid of evil than He would not be omnipotent. God could take away our freedom and our agency and make every person good, but we would be like robots and we would not love either God or man any more than a computer loves the user when it follows the commands given without complaint or fail. The topic of agency is somewhat complex and I will revisit it later in this episode, but for now let us move on to the next question.
The second question Epicurus poses is whether God is able to prevent evil, but not willing, which he then follows up with the claim that it would make God malevolent. As I mentioned for the last question, God could take away our agency to get rid of evil but we would only do good because we had no other choice. God wants us to love Him but in order for us to love at all we must have a choice in the matter because when it comes down to it, love is always a choice. It is not evil to allow us to make choices, and when we choose to do evil things it breaks God's heart. If a person was forced to love it wouldn't be love at all, just like when my mother would force me as a child to say I was sorry to one of my sisters when I wasn't really sorry. I could be forced to say the words but I couldn't be forced to mean it. We could either be forced to act like we love while we begrudge it or we could be forced to act like we love and not have the ability to feel any different, but neither of those are love, and those are practically the only options we have when force is involved. When there is a choice involved, there will always be some who choose not to love.
The last question Epicurus posed was, "Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” I won't waste much time on the last question because God is both willing and able, which brings us to the penultimate question. "Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?" That really is the question, isn't it? If God loves us, why is there so much evil and why doesn't He, God, do something about it?
Of course, the way people usually ask it is, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? I could go into a tirade, leaning heavily on the words of Paul, and say that none of us are good, which is 100% true, but that isn't where I am going with this. Instead I will use some of the words of Jesus.
"that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." -Matthew 5:45
Yes, I am aware that the verse I read does nothing to answer the question as to why there is so much evil in the world if a limitless God loves us as much as it is claimed. The reason I mentioned the verse it so show that good things and bad things happen to both good and bad people. It just seams more unfair when bad things happen to those who are the most innocent or vulnerable among us.
When we turn on the radio, the computer, or open a newspaper, we are immediately bombarded by tragedy and heartbreak, both because sensational news brings up ratings and makes money and because of the shear volume of horrific things that happen around the world on a daily basis. If only the good things were reported it would get boring and people would stop watching, stop listening and stop reading the news. No one would want to read a book or watch a movie where there was no conflict and everything worked out perfectly because it would be boring, and our lives would be boring if there were no conflict, but that is not why God allows evil.
God could likely care less if we are entertained or bored. God has more important things to worry about than whether or not we are entertained, and most of us know we have more important things to worry about than fun and entertainment, and those of us who don't realize this help to perpetuate evil as a means of having fun or entertaining themselves at the expense of people and civilization. There is nothing wrong with fun and entertainment so long as it doesn't come at the expense of others or at the expense of our relationships with people or our relationship with God.
A great deal of sin, death, destruction and misery comes about by people putting their wants, desires, goals and agendas above all else, above people and even above God. Sometimes people convince themselves that what they are doing is right, or that the means justify the ends, even though the Bible doesn't support what their agenda or the means by which they are attempting to accomplish it. Hitler believed it was his God given duty to rid the world fo Jews and other undesirables and claimed he had the support of God, despite the fact that a great deal of what he was doing was expressly condemned by the word of God. A lot of people make the claim that Hitler was an atheist, but that is easily proven false. HItler may have been one of the worst Christians in history, but he was a Christian.
Some people don't believe in any God and don't seek to justify their horrendous actions, like Jeffrey Dahmer, Mussolini, Mao, Pol Pot and Stalin. Regardless of why people commit atrocities the result is the same and suffering occurs.
There have been wars, mass murder, rape, child abuse, murdered children, people starving to death, people freezing to death, elderly people cheated out of their money and home, and that's just this week! There have even been recent church shootings which make people question why God didn't save those who put their trust in Him. Believing in God doesn't make us immune from the evils of this world, it just makes us better equipped to deal with tragedy when it inevitably strikes.
Children die every day from abuse, neglect, starvation, drowning, disease, birth defects, abortion, accidents and many other ways. Women are raped and murdered. The elderly are neglected and abused. The poor are marginalized and mistreated. Entire counties are subjugated and taken advantage of under the rule of oppressive governments. Churches are burned and Christians are beheaded for professing their faith in the Lord God and the Bible. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, landslides and other natural disasters kill countless people and ruin the livelihood of the survivors. Throughout human history there have been many genocides and attempted genocides. All of these horrors occur under the ever watching eye of the Almighty God, but why? Why doesn't God step in and stop some of the pain and suffering?
I think God does stop a lot of pain and suffering, but since there is no way for us to know what might have happened, we don't know that God stopped a tragedy and we blame God for not stopping the tragedies we do see. A lot of it comes down to not knowing.
During WWII Harry S Truman was the vice president, which also made him the president of the senate. Truman knew there was a top secret project that was costing a large sum of money and he did his best to kill it. When President Franklin D Roosevelt died and Harry S. Truman was made the president he was informed what the secret project was; the atomic bomb. While it was a difficult decision for him, Truman decided to drop the bomb to end the war. Had Truman succeeded in killing the project the war would likely have dragged on for a long time.
I am not arguing the merits of dropping the bomb and I think the loss of Japanese life was no less a tragedy the the loss of American or Allied life, I am using this as an example of how people react when the don't know verses when they do know. We often don't know, and unlike governments, God can always be trusted.
When it is mentioned that evil exists because people have the freedom to choose their actions and people often make poor choices, it is often asked why God didn't just create the world without evil. Well, actually, He did. When God first created the world it was perfect and there was no sin, no pain, no suffering and no sadness. It was so perfect that people didn't even have to work and their food grew itself. God wanted us to love Him of our own free will and choice, not because it was the only choice, so He gave us the ability to choose. It wasn't long before people made the wrong choices and did exactly the opposite of what God asked them to do.
Making the wrong choice is typically easy and making the correct choice is difficult, but following the path of least resistance makes rivers and men crooked. It is easier to sit on the couch and watch television than it is to go for a run and it is easier to blow up and yell an someone who is annoying you than it is to try and see it from their point of view. Nothing worth while comes without effort, and what comes the easiest often leads to heartache and requires a great deal of work to fix later.
When God created the world it was perfect and man messed it up. I doubt there is anything good on this earth that someone hasn't used for something other than its intended purpose, making it an instrument of sin. People can use something perfect and pure to do vile works, but God can turn something absolutely horrible and vile to good. Some people will ask why God didn't create people without the ability to sin, without taking away their agency. The simple answer is that with the freedom to choose there will always be those who choose to do wrong. Even the highest of all the angels, Lucifer, chose to do that which was evil and became the devil.
It is sin that brings evil into the world, and God allows it because it is only through the freedom of will that allows for the existence of love. However, there is more to it than this, and we don't always understand what is going on. Sometimes we see, years down the road, why things happened the way they did, but sometimes we never know the reasons in this life. We don't always have to know the reason to trust God that there is a reason, and a good one.
Throughout most of my life I have wrestled with the dilemma of why a loving God would allow so much evil pain and suffering to occur, especially to children. I once had someone tell me that the things I went through as a child were predestined and were part of God's plan to make me who I need to be, and I wanted to punch them in their face for even suggesting that God would sit up there in heaven and devise ways in which to torture children.
When I was around six years of age my family took our motorhome to a lake in the midwest sometime in early winter. The lake had not frozen yet but was not far from it. It was spitting snow and there was a little ice around the edge of the marshes and more sheltered areas of the lake.
As we were pulling up near the docks, I saw a piece of lumber lying near the water. As soon as the vehicle came to a stop I jumped out and ran for the piece of wood. I grabbed the of pine board and ran to the water. There were two boat docks, each at least fifty feet long. In between the docks was a boat ramp. I tossed the board a few feet out from where the boat ramp disappeared into the water, throwing pebbles at the board, pretending that it was an enemy ship and the pebbles were bombs.
Almost as soon as I started my air raid on the unsuspecting ship, my father came up behind me and roughly smacked me in the back of the head. My father said he needed that piece of wood and that I had to go get it. I first tried to get it with a fallen branch, but all I succeeded in doing was making waves that caused the board to float farther away from shore. The strong winds didn't help me either.
My father told me, with his self-rolled cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his lips, that I now had to wade out to get the wood. I looked at him questioningly. Surely he didn’t really intend to make me wade out into the icy water. He definitely did intend for me to wade out in the cold water and he made sure I knew it.
I will substitute some words for what my father actually said to me because I don't like to use profanity. “What are you waiting for you little miscreant?” my father said harshly before turning his head to spit. Since my father’s self rolled cigarettes had no filters he was always getting pieces of tobacco on his lips and in his mouth and as a result had developed the habit of spitting, even when he had nothing in his mouth to spit out. “If you don’t hurry up and get in the water I will light you up with my belt!”
I bit my lip so that I wouldn’t cry. I didn’t want my father to see me cry because I wanted to look brave and I didn't want him to make fun of me for being a sissy. I didn’t want to go out into the cold water, but I knew my father never made idle threats. When the icy water soaked through my clothes and touched my skin I gasped and breathing became difficult. When I was up to my chest I looked back at my father and begged him to allow me to return to shore, but he would not hear of it. I was told that if I returned to shore without the piece of lumber I would be beat so hard that I would not be able to sit down for a month.
When I was out far enough that the water started to come into my nose I stopped. The piece of wood was so far out that I could not possibly get it. I was hoping that my father would reconsider, but even if he didn’t I had to come back because I was freezing and couldn't swim. I decided that I would rather be beaten than drown or freeze to death. As I approached shore my father screamed at me, saying that he would beat me until no one recognized me if I didn't get that piece of wood. I was terrified of what I knew my father was going to do to me, but I knew that getting the board was beyond my abilities. I started to cry uncontrollably and the sobs shook me to the core.
As soon as I got to shore my father slapped me so hard that I spun completely around and fell face first onto the gravel. I knew that my father was cruel, but I could have never expected what he did next. My father picked me up by my belt and carried me in one hand like a suitcase and walked out onto the longer of the two docks.
There was not even the slightest doubt in my mind that father knew I couldn't swim when he threw me out into the lake towards the piece of lumber, at least ten feet past the end of the docks. My head hit the corner of the floating pine board and cut a sizeable gash in my forehead. I was cold, injured, scared, and far worse, I was drowning.
I somehow managed to make it back to the dock. My father was standing on the edge of the dock waiting for me, and when I reached him I expected him to extend a helping hand. Since I did not have the piece of lumber my father had no interest in helping me and threw me back out into the cold water. I was convinced that I was going to die, and very well could have.
I made it back to the dock a second time and grabbed the deck, struggling to climb to safety. My father put his right foot on my face and violently shoved me off the end of the dock, forcing my neck back almost to the breaking point. Before my head went under I saw my father turn to walk away. Every time I managed to get my head above the surface of the water I screamed for help, but my cries fell upon deaf ears. My mother and sisters couldn’t hear my cries and my father didn’t care.
When I finally made it to shore I think I threw up what felt like everything I had eaten my entire life up to that point. I was shaking so bad that I could barely stand up, but I knew that I had to get help from my mother. I had survived the plunge, but if I didn’t get warmed up I would surely die. I mustered all of the strength that I could and ran to the camper to tell mother what my father did to me. When I told my mother what had happened I thought that she would feel sorry for comfort and me, but she didn’t, at least not at first.
My father had seen me coming and told mother that I had gone into the water when he had told me not to. I wonder what lie he would have told if I had died, which is what he obviously wanted to happen.
My mother sat in the corner and cried while my father severely beat me for failing to get the piece of lumber for him, and for "telling lies" about him that both of us knew were actually truths. When my father was finished I was covered with bruises and cuts and it hurt to sit, hurt to stand, hurt to lie down, and hurt to live. I almost wished that I had died in the lake and given my father what he wanted. I tried to stay still so that it wouldn’t hurt so badly but I couldn’t stop shivering, and when I had to throw up again moments later it about destroyed me.
What my father did was expected because I knew that he was deranged, but my mother had always claimed to be my protector, and she had let me down. In my six year old wisdom I could not understand why my mother didn't step in and save me. It was some time before I realized how much evil my father perpetrated on my mother and how scared of him she was. I hated my mother for not protecting me as she always said that she would do. In my mind my mother had done more than fail me, she had joined the enemy, becoming my enemy as well.
After my father wondered off somewhere, my mother came over to comfort me. At first I didn’t even want her to touch me. “I hate you!” I yelled and burst into tears. Tears were also streaming down my mother’s face.
After a few moments my mother convinced me that I needed her help and she brought me a blanket and wrapped it around me, and she gave me some hot tea.
“I’m sorry Gene,” my mother managed. “Dear God, I am sorry!”
“I know mom,” I said silently. “I am sorry too. I don’t really hate you,” but of course, she already knew that.
We sat there in the floor of our little camper, hugging each other and crying for a long time. The events of that day bothered me for years, but I was even more hurt a year later when my father told me that he had never loved me and wished I had never been born. Despite the cruelty, I loved my father and wanted him to love me and be proud of me and at that moment I knew he never would. In fact, the last thing my father ever said to me before he died was that I was his worst enemy and he wished I had died as a child.
There are no shortage of bad parents. When I was a kid I had a friend who confided in me that her mother sold her to men for drug money. She said that her father had no idea what her mother was doing and she was afraid of what her mother or the men would do to her if she told her father. When she told me what was happening to her I didn't know what else to do so I just sat there and cried with her while we hugged. About a year later was the last I saw her and I often wonder what happened to her and hope and pray that she now has a happy life.
There is so much injustice in the world that it is difficult to even fathom. I have always had a difficult time reconciling God's love with the things He apparently allows to happen because, let's be honest, nothing happens on this earth or in the universe without God allowing it. It was especially difficult for me to understand the pain and suffering when it happened to me or people I care about. No matter how much we care about people in general, things impact us more when they happen to us or people we know.
One of the many times I went camping by myself, I was sitting by the fire drinking my morning coffee when I noticed that a fallen tree branch had caught fire. The branch had been on the ground for some time as a colony of ants had built their anthill around it and the smoke coming out of the end of the rotten limb was causing them to scurry about in a state of what appeared to be confusion and fear, though to be honest, I don't know if ants actually have the intellectual capacity for either.
The thought occurred to me that as the fire spread it would burn and kill a lot of the ants, so I drug the burning limb away from the anthill. If I thought the ants were scurrying about before, now there was probably a thousand times the activity there had been before I moved the limb. I realized the ants had no idea why I had moved the limb and from their vantage point all they could see was that I had destroyed part of their home and killed some of their members.
I thought about what I had done for hours and how it related to what God does for and/or to us. I think we are often like those ants and are completely unaware of the danger we are saved from because we can only see our current situation.
When we only see our current situation we are failing to see the forest because we are looking too closely at one individual tree. God has plans for our lives and Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God is good and doesn't cause evil, but when people use their freedom to cause evil God will use it for good.
One of the best examples of bad being turned to good is the life of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachael and was Jacob's favorite son, a fact that was not lost on his brothers. While Jacob was the oldest son of Rachael, he had ten older brothers whose mothers were Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah. Rachael was Jacob's favorite wife, which is part of the reason Joseph was the favorite, but also because more than any of his brothers, Jospeh feared and obeyed the Lord. There is a whole story about why Rachael was the favorite wife but I don't have time to get into it now.
Where Joseph's other brothers were given regular, run of the mill, coats, Jospeh was given a special coat. Instead of a plain or common coat Joseph's coat was a coat of many colors, a royal coat. Joseph had dreams or visions that his father thought were from God, and it turned out they absolutely were.
When Joseph told his family about the dreams he had where he would later be in charge of his entire family, it didn't impress his brothers one little bit, nor did it impress them that Jospeh would snitch on them to their father. Seriously, no one likes a snitch.
The ten older brothers decided to take matters into their own hands and rid themselves of their troublesome younger brother, the dreamer, once and for all. When Joseph was sent to check on his brothers as they were tending sheep they plotted to kill him, but they ultimately decided to sell him as a slave. The Bible tells us that Joseph was seventeen at the time and was sold for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishsmaelites, who in turn sold him in Egypt, though we are not told what kind of a profit they got out of him. It would be interesting to know though.
To cover up their crime, the ten older brothers took Joseph's special coat, tore it and dipped it in blood, and took it back to their father telling him that Jospeh was killed by some wild beast. Jacob was devastated by the news.
Joseph wound up in the service of a man named Potipher, an officer to Pharaoh. It didn't matter what Joseph was doing, he would do his absolute best at it. Joseph did his absolute best as a Shepard and he did his absolute best as a slave. We are not told how long it took, but Potipher noticed how faithful Joseph was and put him in charge of his entire property and over the rest of the servants.
The Bible tells us that Joseph was a good looking man, and Potipher's wife noticed. Over and over Potifer's wife asked Joseph to lay with her, and time and again Joseph would refuse her advances and say that he would not do such evil to a man who trusted him in all things. When Potipher's wife eventually realized she would never have Joseph she grabbed his garment and he ran out without it. Potipher's wife told the other servants, and her husband, that Joseph tried to rape her.
For a crime he didn't commit, Joseph was arrested and thrown into the prison where the Pharaoh's prisoners were held. I think of it as a political prison. Just as he put his all into everything else he did, Joseph became the model prisoner and the prison warden put him in charge of all the other prisoners. While Joseph was in prison he met two men who had been imprisoned for somehow offending the Pharaoh. One man was the official cup bearer and the other was the baker. Both men had dreams on the same night and they were worried about the dreams because they didn't know what they meant.
The next morning when Joseph noticed the men were worried and downcast he asked them what was wrong and they told him they both had dreams and there was no one who could interpret them. Joseph told the men that he could interpret dreams through the power of God so they told their dreams to him. First the cup bearer told his dream and Joseph told him it meant after three days he would be released from prison and his position restored. Encouraged, the baker told his dream and Jospeh told him the dream meant that in three days he would be taken out of the prison, and hanged. Imagine being the second man, the baker.
Joseph told the cup bearer that when he was restored to his position to remember him and tell the Pharaoh about him to get him out of prison, a place he had done nothing to deserve. The cup bearer promised but as soon as he was restored to his position he forgot all about Joseph.
Jospeh would spend two more years in prison before he was liberated. The Pharaoh had two troublesome dreams the same night and no one could interpret them for him. The first dream was seven fat cows that got devoured by seven skinny cows and the second was seven healthy heads of grain getting devoured by seven withered heads of grain. When the cup bearer saw his masters anguish over the dreams he remembered Joseph and told his master about him.
Immediately Joseph was released from prison and, when he had shaved, bathed and put on clean clothes, he was brought before the pharaoh. When Jospeh interpreted the dreams to mean there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and suggested what the nation do to prepare, the Pharaoh made him the second in command over all of Egypt. The Bible tells us that when Jospeh came into power in Egypt that he was thirty years old, so thirteen years had passed since his brother sold him to the Ishmalites.
When the famine was in full swing Joseph's older brothers came to Egypt to buy grain and Joseph could have had them imprisoned, tortured or killed, but instead he forgave them and saved them and the rest of Israel from death by starvation.
Joseph said to his brothers, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." - Genesis 50:20
Because Joseph was sold into slavery he got a position of power in Egypt. It was only through all of Joseph's suffering that Israel was spared. Instead of becoming angry and bitter, Joseph put his trust in God and not only endured his suffering with patience, he made the best of every situation. There is no recorded instance of Joseph so much as speaking ill of any of the people who did him wrong.
While God doesn't cause evil things to happen, he does use them to bring about good. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . . ." - Romans 8:28
When I was in college I worked at a home for troubled teens, or teens who came from a troubled home. Some of these kids were saved from abusive homes, some were saved from their own self-destructive behavior and some were give the choice of the home or juvenile detention. Most of the kids didn't know it, but almost every one of the employees had rough childhoods, and a lot of them, including me, had a much worse childhood than the kids in the home did. While I didn't tell the kids about my childhood, it did help me to relate with them and know where they were coming from and it helped me to know how to help them.
One kid was sent there because he had anger issues and had physically assaulted his mother on several occasions. To be honest, I had no idea whether or not I was getting through to him, or any of the kids. One day, several years after I ended my employment with the home, a woman recognized me and approached me to say that I had really helper her son and he had turned his life around. This was the mother of the kid who had been violent with his mother and was arrested because or it before going to the home. In that moment I decided that if I had saved one kid than it was all worth it. Sometimes the lessons we learn through our pain are immensely valuable. I think there is always a lesson if we pay attention, even if the lesson is, "that was stupid and I shouldn't do it again."
When things go wrong, when we loose people we love and/or when there is pain and suffering we can either turn bitter or we can turn to God. If we allow life and its events to make us bitter we will not be happy and we won't be able to see the good because our pain and our anger is all we see. If we become bitter and angry we won't have a fulfilling or meaningful life. If we turn to God and trust Him we will be given peace and courage, and while our lives won't necessarily get easier, they will be more worth while and we will be better equipped to handle the challenges that will come our way.
Have you ever noticed that when everything in the world appears to be going their way people often don't pray or turn to God but when they are down and being kicked by life they call out to Him? There is a reason for the saying, "There are no atheist in foxholes," and while I am not arguing that there hasn't been an atheist who has tried his or her hand in prayer during combat, I am saying that hard times make us more likely to remember God.
Perhaps, at least some of the time, God allows for bad things to happen because it brings us back to Him. After the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and other locations, many Christians who had mostly forgotten God returned to church. The simple truth is that pain of any kind helps us to remember God, especially emotional pain stemming from loss or heartache. Pain reminds us that this world is not our home. "For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come." - Hebrews 13:14
Some people are angry with God when they suffer because they mistakenly think life is supposed to become easier when you turn your life to God, but the Bible tells us quite the opposite. Jesus told his followers, “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
Paul also spoke of the trials one may be asked to endure for Christ's sake and said, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you." - 1 Peter 4:12
Sometimes, most of the time, we don't see things clearly from our vantage point and we have to trust that God is telling us the truth. Sometimes we have to trust what we do see to lead us to what we don't.
When I was in college I was on my way to Pocatello, Idaho from Wyoming on Highway 30. If you have never been there, HWY 30 is a narrow winding road that goes over a steep mountain pass that can be treacherous even in the best of conditions, and that night was not the best of conditions. There was ice on the road with blowing snow and fog. On the worse part of the pass all the exterior lights on my car failed and there was no place to pull off the road!
At first I panicked but than I noticed there was a semi a ways ahead of me so I sped up enough to catch him and stuck close to him until we go to Soda Springs, Idaho where I could pull off. I knew if I stuck close and followed the truck I would be ok, even though the truck was all I could see. We may not be able to see what God sees, but we have to trust that He sees and is leading us to something good.
Paul says, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." - 1 Corinthians 13:12
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,'declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9
The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time and season for everything. Perhaps you are now going through a season of mourning and the time for rejoicing has not yet come. God does not say everything He promised you will be in this life and when things we want don't happen when we want them we get impatient and think we are being slighted or treated unfairly instead of trusting God. If we truly believe the Bible than we know God keeps His promises, though often not in ways we would have expected.
Trials build faith. " In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." - 1 Peter 1:6-7
When Paul was in prison in Philipi the jailer became a believer as a result, him and his entire family. Paul could have sulked and became angry that God had allowed him to be imprisoned for serving Him, complaining that life isn't fair, but instead he used everything as an opportunity to share the word of God and spread the hope that is found only in Jesus.
Another reason we are sometimes allowed to suffer instead of God giving us everything we want as soon as we want it is that He wants us to love Him for who He is and not because He makes our lives easy. Would you want to have children who only loved you for your money? Of course not, and God wants our love for Him to be genuine as well.
I have had a couple of girlfriends who would ask me to do ridiculous things and when I refused they would say to me, "If you loved me you would do this for me." Every single time that was said to me it would upset me because whether or not I did whatever it was had nothing to do with whether or not I loved her and it was simply a form of manipulation. Though I didn't realize it at the time, I used to think this about God and say that if He truly loved me He would give me such and such, or if He loved me He would not have let something happen. I can't see all things and God can, so trusting God is the way to go, even when I don't understand and when it doesn't appear to make sense.
Corrie ten Boom, a devout Christian from the Netherlands, spent some time in the notorious Ravensbrück Concentration Camp in Germany for hiding Jews in her family home and helping them escape the holocaust. Her and her sister Betsie were put together in the same building and they immediately noticed the horrid smell and the fleas. Corrie complained about the fleas by Betsie insisted they thank God for them.
Their barrack was almost never visited by guards because of the fleas, which gave the women there a measure of safety and security that wasn't afforded to women in most of the other barracks and they were even able to hold Christian services and read from the Bible. What appeared at first to be a curse was actually a blessing.
Probably the most horrific and unjust thing that has ever or will ever occur in human history was when Jesus, the only truly innocent human to ever live, was brutally tortured and executed. It was horrible and it was tragic, but through it came the most beautiful thing any of us could ever imagine; we were freed from sin and death and forgiven, given the opportunity to stand pure and clean before a holy God!
Yes there is too much pain and suffering in the world, and yes it is unfair, but God has promised it will all work out in the end.