Evil and Suffering Do Not Disprove God's Existence


Lecture Notes by
CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL
Director of The Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry
© Copyright 2000–2017

Tonight, I want to talk to you about the problem of evil. The problem of evil is the most popular objection that atheists and critics of Christianity raise against the existence of God.

Many critics of the Christian faith believe that the existence of evil and suffering in the world disproves the existence of the all-powerful, loving God described in the Bible.

Atheists say, “If God exists and is loving He would put an end to evil. If He is all-powerful, He could put an end to evil. Since evil persists, the all-loving, all-powerful God described in the Bible must not exist.”

Have you heard people reason this way? Well, this evening I want to respond to this objection and some other tough questions regarding this topic. I hope our time together will be encouragement to you and that it will also help equip you with some ways to answer the questions yourself.

So, let's tackle this first objection (the one that I brought up a moment ago):

SKEPTIC: If God exists and is loving He would put an end to evil. If He is all-powerful, He could put an end to evil. Since evil persists, the all-loving, all-powerful God described in the Bible must not exist.


CHARLIE: Well, I disagree. I think the existence of evil behavior in the world is actually evidence for the existence of God, not against.

Atheists create a quandary for themselves when they point at certain activities in the world and say: "If God existed, He would not allow all this evil to take place.”

Here’s the problem. No activity can truly be evil apart from the existence of God. Why not?

Without God, without a transcendent moral lawgiver, humans would not have any objective (real) standards (laws) by which we might determine a particular activity to be evil.

For example, we would not be able to conclude that kidnapping children and murdering them is evil (that which is truly morally wrong). In a godless universe, we would not be able to determine that     

•  slavery
•  racism     
•  stealing     
•  genocide     
•  rape     
•  child molestation

...are evil.

It would just be one person’s opinion against another’s. And yet these activities are regularly condemned, called evil, and known to be evil...even by atheists.

Well, these evil activities verify for us that there are actual, objective, real moral boundaries or laws in the universe. But there can be no such thing as objective moral laws apart from a moral lawgiver, God. So, the reality of evil in the world actually turns out to be evidence for the existence of God, not against—which is amazing really! Because the problem of evil is often considered atheists’ strongest argument against God.

SKEPTIC: Well, that’s an interesting way to look at it Charlie, but if God exists, He should put an end to the evil and suffering.

CHARLIE: I agree. And the Bible says He will. Just because God has not yet put an end to evil, does not mean that He will not put an end to evil. The Bible tells us that God is going to put an end to the evil and suffering that's taking place on the Earth. The apostle John tells us that in the new Heavens and new Earth (that God is going to create)…

Revelation 21:4
"...God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

So, God is going to end evil and suffering. It’s just going to happen according to His timing, not ours.

SKEPTIC: Great, but why doesn’t He just intervene right now and put an end to all the evil we see?

CHARLIE: Well, think through this with me. For God to put an end to evil and suffering, God would have to stop every act that causes any suffering. To do that, He would have to stop those who cause the suffering.

This would include:

• anyone who has ever stolen anything
• anyone who has ever acted selfishly or hurt anybody's feelings
• anyone who has lied
• alcoholics
• drug abusers
• tax cheats
• bad drivers
• bad cooks

And we could go on and on. The list would not only include those who were caught causing the suffering but all those who never got caught. And not only would the list include those who broke our government’s laws but all those who deviated from God’s standard of righteousness. That list is going to be pretty long isn't it? It's going to have about 7.5 billion names on it. Wouldn’t that mean He would have to put a stop to you too? Haven’t you, by your own actions, caused some of the suffering that exists in the world? Surely you have. Then, you should be thankful God allows evil for the time being. God has not destroyed evil because He would have to destroy us. By permitting evil and suffering to continue for the time being, God is actually showing the world mercy.

The Bible says...

2 Peter 3:9 
“The Lord is not slow  to fulfill his promise [to come again and judge the world]…but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

That’s why God hasn’t put a stop to evil. He’s mercifully waiting for people to repent. But, as I said a moment ago, there is coming a day when God will stop evil (2 Peter 3:7-13). He will judge unrepentant sinners, put them away forever, and create a new Earth where there will no longer be any death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 20-22). In the meantime, God is working out much good in the midst of the suffering (see Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28; Philippians 1:12). Suffering people often turn to God and receive the kind of help they truly need, a soul-saving relationship with God Himself.

I’ll talk more about how God works in and through suffering later.

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SKEPTIC: Let’s suppose there is a God. It can’t be the God of the Bible, for Isaiah 45:7 says that Yahweh creates evil. Surely a loving God would never create evil.

CHARLIE: Let’s look at Isaiah 45:7. [This isn't a verse your average nonbeliever is going to bring up on the street, but it is a verse that atheists bring up in debates and on their websites when discussing the problem of evil. So, I'd like to quickly address it.]

Isaiah 45:7
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

SKEPTIC: Ha!! There you go! If the God of the Bible is the creator of evil (“I make peace, and create evil”) then I don’t want anything to do with Him! A loving God would never create evil.”

CHARLIE: Well, what are we to think about that? First off, atheists almost always quote this passage of Scripture from the King James translation of the Bible, published in 1611, because it reads slightly different in the more modern translations.

If you have a King James translation of the Bible, you might circle that word “evil” in verse 7. The Hebrew word there, translated “evil” by the King James translators, is the word “ra." A better translation of “ra” in this verse would be “adversity,” “calamity,” or “disaster.” And that is the way the modern translations translate the word (e.g., NKJV and NASB).

In Isaiah 45:7, God was not saying He creates evil or does anything that is morally wrong. He was speaking of the adversity or the calamity that He sends as a judgment on the wicked. When God metes out a particular judgment on a wicked city, or nation, or person, in the form of a calamity or disaster, there is nothing unjust or morally wrong about it.

Thousands of years ago, a man who walked by the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and saw dead people all over the place and smoke rising from the two cities, might have wondered, “Why does God allow all this evil, death, and destruction?”

Well in reality, the “disaster” he saw was not the result of some random natural occurrence. Nor was it the result of evil men slaughtering innocent people. It was a direct and righteous judgment of God on evil.

SKEPTIC: So, you think God  has the right to send disasters and calamity on cities like this?

CHARLIE: Yes, I do. God is sovereign over life. He created the planet and all its inhabitants and He has the right to do with His creation whatever He deems best.

The Bible says the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of “exceedingly grave” sins (Genesis 18:20).   They had become a dangerous cancer and threat to humanity. They would not repent; so after God removed the lone upright family (Lot’s), God destroyed the cities.

There was nothing evil about the judgment or the calamity (“ra”) that came upon them. God is not the author (creator) of evil. Everything God does is holy and just (Deuteronomy 32:4).

SKEPTIC: Well, that may explain that verse (Isaiah 45:7). But if God is the creator of everything (as you Christians suggest) and evil is something, then how can you say that God is not the one responsible for the existence of evil?

CHARLIE: Good question. Let me ask you a question congregation:

Is God the creator of everything? Who says Yes? Who says No? Who thinks this is a trick question? Who won’t raise their hand this evening no matter what I ask? Okay, very good.

The answer to the question is Yes. The Bible tells us this is the case in...

Colossians 1:16:
“For by Him all things were created that are in Heaven and that are on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

Uh oh. If God created “all things,” as this verse and others teach, does that mean that God created evil?

Well, let me ask you another question: Is evil something? What is evil? Are there evil molecules or atoms floating around? Is evil some slimy blue goo that accidentally gets on people and causes them to do bad things?

No. Evil is not something you can touch. The Bible teaches that evil is not a thing God created, but rather: a departure from the way things ought to be. In other words, we might say that evil is:

•  a non-conformity to the way things ought to be
•  a non-conformity to God’s will
•  a deviation from God’s standard

So in response to the critic’s charge that God, being the creator, must have created evil, we say: God is the creator of all things, but because evil is not a thing, it does not follow that God is responsible for the existence of evil.

SKEPTIC: If God is not directly responsible for the origin or existence of evil, then who or what is?

CHARLIE: Well, to answer the question concisely: People! Our relatives Adam and Eve, the first man and woman God made, were the first humans to depart from God’s will, and we have been doing the same ever since.

SKEPTIC: So you’re saying that the Bible places the blame for evil at the feet of humans, not God.

CHARLIE: Right.

SKEPTIC: Okay, but the Bible says that everything God created was good. How could Adam and Eve have done that which was evil if they were truly good?”

CHARLIE: The Bible does say everything God made was good. In fact, Genesis 1:31 states that everything God made was “very good.” And that included Adam and Eve.

But we disagree with the skeptic’s conclusion that good creatures (like Adam and Eve) are incapable of doing that which is evil.

We believe one of the good qualities God created mankind with was "free will" (Psalm 54:6; Philemon 1:14). Freedom to choose between opposing options, morally speaking, is a good thing. God gave that freedom to Adam and Eve and he gives that freedom to us as well.

And even atheists will acknowledge that freedom is good. You never hear people marching through the streets shouting out: “Down with freedom! We don’t want to have choices! Put us back into slavery!” Never. People march for freedom and for liberty. Free will is a good thing. So, God created mankind with free will. [Credit here to Dr. Norman Geisler for a lot of this wording]

Evil originated (and continues today) because of what humans (free moral agents) did and continue to do with their free will. Evil did not originate with God making a less than perfect world as described in the book of Genesis.

SKEPTIC: I still think if God exists, He’s the one to blame for the presence of evil! According to the Bible, He’s the one who created the people with the free will who commit evil!

CHARLIE: Well, let me ask you this. If a man stabs somebody with a knife, who is to blame? The knife company who made the knife or the man who did the stabbing?

SKEPTIC: Well, obviously, the fault is with the man who misused the knife, not the knife maker.

CHARLIE: Well, just as the knife maker is not to blame for the misuse of the knife, the same is true when it comes to the presence of evil in the world. The world God made was very good. The sin, evil, and suffering that has come into the world is a result of mankind’s misuse of his freedom.

The sin, evil, and suffering that has come into the world is a result of mankind’s misuse of his freedom. And not only did evil originate with mankind’s misuse of freedom in the Garden of Eden, the majority of evil today is the result of men continuing to misuse their freedom.

As C. S. Lewis pointed out, most of the evil and suffering in the world has been produced by human beings with whips, guns, bayonets, gas chambers, and bombs. [C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 89.]

Think of how much better life could be on the planet if there were no:

•  criminals
•  corrupt politicians
•  racists
•  gangs
•  iron-fisted dictators
•  terrorists
•  wars
•  drug dealers
•  drunk drivers
•  absent fathers
•  child molesters
•  school yard bullies

...and on and on the list goes. Think of the billions of dollars that could be spent improving the quality of life for people if that money didn’t have to be spent fighting terrorism, crime, and other evil doers. That kind of life is coming during the thousand year reign of Christ. We look forward to that.

CHRISTIAN: Charlie, I have a question. As a student of the Bible, it seems to me that some of the evil and suffering in the world can be attributed to the work of the devil, not just mankind misusing his freedom. Your thoughts?

CHARLIE: I agree. I think a lot of the evil and suffering in the world can be attributed to the work of Satan—probably more than we realize. 1 John 5:19 says, "the whole world lies in the power [is under the sway] of the evil one." Satan has a tremendous influence on world affairs for evil. In John 8:44, Jesus said that the devil is a "murderer" and a "liar." In John 10:10, Jesus said the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. So it's safe to conclude that some of the stealing, killing and destroying that happens is a result of his work.

CHRISTIAN: Why does God allow him the power to do this?

CHARLIE: Well, there are a variety of reasons and I'm going to talk about about some of them in a few minutes, but I'm afraid mankind is again much to blame for Satan's success in carrying out his schemes. James 4:7 says, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." When people refuse to submit to God and to resist Satan's temptations, they open themselves up to being his agents of harm. The Bible speaks of thos who are "taken captive by him [Satan] to do his will" (2 Timothy 2:26).

If people would submit to God and resist the devil, Satan would be hugely limited in what he could accomplish. This is one of the reasons why taking the gospel out into the world is the best way to alleviate human suffering. When that drunkard who beats his wife and neglects his children submits his life to God and is changed by the Holy Spirit into a sober, loving, faithful husband and father...suffering is alleviated. When that prideful, greedy business owner who lies to customers and overcharges them submits his life to God and is born again, suffering is alleviated. See how that works?

Now more could be said about this obviously, and I'll continue to develop these thoughts, but critics raise another good question.

SKEPTIC: If the evil and suffering in our world originated with mankind’s misuse of freedom (and continues because of our misuse of freedom), why didn’t God just create a world without human freedom?

CHARLIE: That’s another thoughtful question. God certainly could have created a world without freedom, a world full of robots that marched around 24 hours a day singing songs to Him. Why would it have been a world of robots? Well, to create a world with living creatures that remains free of suffering, God would have to create a world in which sin (that brings about suffering) never takes place.

To do that, God would have to create creatures without free will (i.e., without the freedom to sin). The creatures would have to be wired and pre-programmed to always do what God wanted them to do. God certainly could have made that kind of world and those kinds of creatures. But the relationships between the creatures and God would have all been void of love and meaningless to God. Why?

In order for a meaningful, genuine, loving relationship to exist between God and people, people must be free, free to love Him or free to hate Him. If there’s no choice allowed (or free will), love is not meaningful. So God saw it worth it to grant mankind real freedom. You can freely love Him or hate Him. You can freely obey Him or sin against Him.

Although that freedom God has given us allows for the possibility of evil and suffering, it also allows for real love, the highest good, to take place.

SKEPTIC: Well, yes freedom may be good. And there is a lot of evil that results from mankind’s ‘misuse’ of it, but I have a hard time believing in a God who would allow hurricanes and earthquakes and other natural evils.

CHARLIE: Well in response, first off, I’ll point out that none of these things (hurricanes, earthquakes) are inherently evil. There is nothing immoral about an earthquake or hurricane.

We need big storms. They bring lots of fresh water up from the ocean to water hundreds of miles of dry wheat and corn fields, so billions of us can eat!

Rain and storms are part of the incredible ecosystem God created that provides sustenance for 7.5 billion people to eat 3 meals a day, not to mention the entire animal kingdom and all the food their survival requires.

Think with me for a moment about the hydrological cycle (the water cycle)…Salty ocean water evaporates out in the ocean, making the drops tiny enough (light enough) to go up into the sky; then those drops form clouds, that are then blown by the wind over the dry continents, only to then rain down fresh water on thousands of different types of seeds, so billions of people and animals can have food to eat. Friends, the water cycle is a marvelous testimony to the fact that there is a benevolent Creator behind the Earth's ecosystem!

And scientists have said that hurricanes (enormous storms) are actually good for the health of the planet. One scientist summarizes a couple examples...

“Hurricanes counterbalance the ocean’s tendency to leach [drain] carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This leaching, if unchecked, would result in a catastrophic cooling of the planet. On the other hand, hurricanes prevent the oceans from trapping too much of the sun’s heat by helping to circulate greenhouse gases globally as they shade the ocean locally, preventing heat from building up too dramatically for the safety of certain sea creatures.” [Hugh Ross, “Hurricanes Bring More Than Destruction,” Facts & Faith 12 (1998), pp.4-5. As Quoted in Good God, Cruel World by Krista Bontrager]

Some heady stuff there, but this is just one of several examples of how hurricanes benefit the planet.

Now, occasionally, more rain falls than we’d wish. If you choose to live on an island in the Caribbean or in low lying areas close to the coast near the Gulf of Mexico, you are going to have some problems occasionally. Let’s not happily drink all the fresh water and eat all the food that the rain produces throughout the year and then get mad at God about the rain.

SKEPTIC: But I am mad! You say the rain provides enough food for 7.5 billion people, but there are hundreds of thousands of starving people in the world!

CHARLIE: Well, our hearts go out to those people for sure. And Christians are doing much in the world to alleviate their suffering. But the lack of food is not due to an unloving God having created a faulty planet or ecosystem that doesn't produce enough food to meet human need. The lack of food is often because of wars and governments (or rebel forces) not permitting food, aid, and supplies to reach the people. The cause of this suffering is again mankind misusing his freedom.

SKEPTIC: What about earthquakes? They’re not helping the planet!

CHARLIE: Well, actually, they are. Geologists tell us that tectonic plate activity is good for the health of the planet. The relief of the Earth’s internal pressure is what keeps the planet from exploding. The movement of the Earth’s plates also recycles nutrients that collect in the ocean and returns them back to the continents. In order for plants to grow and to continue to nourish humans, the crust of the Earth must be replenished. But if you decide to build a skyscraper in San Francisco, right near a fault line, where major earthquakes are known to strike, you can expect some serious problems once or twice a century. And we know that!

God’s not forcing anyone to live in tall buildings in San Francisco, near a fault line! I think the angels are probably watching us wondering, Why do they do live there?"  "What are you doing?!" "Put your buildings over there." "And don’t build them so high!”

You may have heard that on January 9, 2010, a 6.5 earthquake hit northern California just three days before the 7.0 quake in Haiti. No people died in the California quake and an estimated 230,000 died in Haiti. Why such a difference in the death toll?

Well, there are a few factors:  the California quake was not quite as powerful as the one in Haiti; the population density of the areas was different, and so on.

But in the United States, we take safety very seriously. So we have strict building codes. We send out building inspectors. We come up with evacuation plans. We offer first-aid courses. We have standards for construction materials. And as a result, many of our buildings, especially the newer ones that were built under these more up-to-date building codes, are much safer when an earthquake hits.

When a country like Haiti, that has been run into the ground by corrupt politicians, does not follow stringent building codes (and is largely unable to because their government has squandered the billions of dollars in aid that has been sent to them in the past) a lot of people are going to die when the Earth’s plates shift.

We shouldn’t blame God for it.

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SKEPTIC: What about tsunamis? The suffering that tsunamis bring is not the result of corrupt politicians.

CHARLIE: Again, there is nothing inherently evil about a tsunami. They occasionally happen and we all know that. If you choose to build a home or a village right at sea level on the beach, you’ll have to live with that decision. The view is nice, but you must realize there could be trouble. We shouldn’t blame God when a wave occasionally rolls ashore.

SKEPTIC: But Charlie, even if the suffering that comes when buildings fall and cities flood is connected to the decisions we make (and even our sin), couldn’t God stop some of these events?

CHARLIE: He certainly could. And I suggest God does. I believe God does stop (or prevent) certain events. Life on our planet could certainly be much worse! But when He does prevent tragedies, loss of life and so on, what happens? Life continues on as though He hasn’t done a thing. To the onlooker, it appears that God hasn’t stopped anything. It's just another great day!

SKEPTIC: If God exists, maybe He should put up a visible sign or something to let us know that He’s stopping or preventing something.

CHARLIE: You mean like a rainbow or something? (Genesis 9:12-17).

SKEPTIC: Uh...yeah maybe something like a rainbow.

CHARLIE: God created the rainbow to remind us of His mercy and promise to never flood the world again.  And what have people done with it? Many have hijacked the rainbow and now proudly flaunt it as a symbol for their sexual sin.

When God does prevent  a tragedy, a good portion  of humanity goes on their way, engaging in sin, ignoring their creator, missing out on a relationship with Him, thinking there is no need for God. And as this mercy and grace continues in their lives, many people think “Who needs God? Everything is great! The sun is shining. My house is standing. I’ve got a good job, a terrific spouse, money in the bank. Life is wonderful.”

And then they die and judgment falls on them for their sins (Luke 12:18-21; Hebrews 9:27). And they end up in Hell. That’s not good.

God does not want a person to live a care-free, comfortable life only to wake up on the other side of death still in his sins. So God, in His wisdom, does permit some suffering. And much good comes as a result. Allow me to share with you eight ways God uses suffering for good. You might jot these down.

1. God uses suffering to help advance the gospel.

In Philippians, chapter 1, Paul said:

Philippians 1:12-13
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard.”

Paul was suffering unjustly in a Roman prison when he wrote this letter to the church at Philippi. And he tells the Philippian Christians, ‘Don’t worry about me. Rejoice! My suffering is turning out for the “furtherance of the gospel.”’

God was using Paul's adverse, difficult circumstances to help get the gospel out, first to the prison guards, and then wherever it would spread from there.

On another occasion mentioned in Galatians 4:13, Paul said it was “because of a bodily illness I preached the gospel to you the first time.”

If Paul had not been suffering from some sort of physical condition that required him to stop in Galatia, the people of Galatia may have never heard the gospel. In God’s eyes, it is far better that one man or woman suffer for a short time here in this life, than a large group of people suffer throughout eternity in Hell!

Friend, are you suffering in some way? There may be people you love and have been praying for—who may be drawn into a relationship with God as a result of watching you walk through the valley you're in with the Good Shepherd. This is one of the reasons God allows trials and adversity (to advance the gospel). And Christian, what’s the worst thing from a human perspective that could happen to you in the valley? You die? Death is humanity’s most feared enemy isn’t it?

But Christian, we have a totally different perspective on death than nonbelievers. For us, death is no longer something to be feared. We’ve been given “everlasting life!” (John 3:16). The Bible says to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). “To depart and be with Christ,” Paul said, “is very much better” (Phil. 1:23).

So, we don’t look at death like the world does. Do we sorrow when one of our children dies? Of course, but not like the world sorrows because we realize this child has gone into the presence of God and we will see him again. So, when it comes to the topic of death, we need to keep a Biblical perspective: Believers in Jesus Christ are leaving this world behind for a much better one!! Hallelujah for that!

A second way God uses suffering for good…

2. God uses suffering to draw prodigals back to Himself.

Many prodigal sons and daughters, who would have been content to continue running away from God, have been drawn back to Him through some adversity.

When the prodigal son in Luke 15 “began to be in need” and found himself eating the food that the pigs ate “he came to his senses” (v. 17) and went home to his father. The Bible says:

2 Corinthians 7:10
“...the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret.”

Notice that. Sometimes it is the will of God for you to suffer! Why? Well, because it often produces repentance. Are you suffering in some way during this season of life? If you are, I encourage you to examine your life! Your suffering may be from the Lord for the purpose of waking you up to some area of sin in your life that He wants you to abandon.

C.S. Lewis, in his book The Problem of Pain, wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” [1962 edition, p. 93]

I agree. Pain does have a way of waking people up. It has wisely been said that, “Some people will not look up until they are flat on their back.” Suffering can shock people out of their lives of indifference to spiritual things.

Now, it is important to point out that although God does use suffering sometimes in this way, a person’s suffering is not always related to unrepentant sin in their life.

Psalm 34:19
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”

Even the child of God who is walking uprightly will experience suffering. Job, Paul, and Daniel of course are good examples of godly men who suffered through a variety of trials and hardships. And there are good reasons why God allows even upright believers to suffer as we will continue to see.

3. God allows suffering to train you to live a righteous (and therefore more joyful) life.

Suffering as a result of sinful behavior is something God uses to train us to live a righteous life. Suffering has a purifying effect upon those who are willing to accept it for that purpose.

A person who spends time in the hospital because of some sinful activity is going to think twice before he’d engage in that activity again. Suffering trains us to live a righteous life.

The Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:67, 71, 75
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word….It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes….in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”

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4. God uses suffering to keep you humble and to humble the proud.

Pride is a sin that leads to a host of destructive sins! And God knows the danger of it. So, with Paul for example, God permitted Satan to afflict him with some suffering to keep Paul humble. In God’s great love for Paul, He permitted a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7).

5. God allows suffering to help build perseverance, character, and hope.

Romans 8:29 says that God is seeking to conform us into the image of His Son, Jesus. And so God is chiseling away at our character to make us more like Him. One of the ways He molds and shapes us is through trials and tribulation. That’s why Paul said in...

Romans 5:3-4
"...we also rejoice in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

As you endure adversity, you are trained to persevere, your character is changed, and your hope (confidence) in God is strengthened.

God is more interested in you knowing Him and your character than your comfort! The greatest goal of the Christian life is not happiness and freedom from pain, but knowing God and becoming more like Jesus. Your character has eternal ramifications and God will use trials and tribulation to shape and mold it.

6. God allows suffering to help you develop compassion, kindness, and sympathy for others.

One reference to this in the Scriptures is found in...

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

The comfort you receive from the Lord, the wisdom you gain, the precious truths you discover during a season of suffering will be invaluable in helping you minister to other people who are suffering or who will be. I still find myself sharing things God showed me in the valleys I’ve been through (10 to 20 years later).

7. Suffering can help bring praise and glory to God.

We read of one example in John 9.

John 9:1-3
And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” [Why the suffering?] Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

God providentially allowed this man to suffer with blindness from the time of his birth—not because of any sin in his life (or in his parents’ lives), but that “the works of God (v.3) might be displayed in him.” And the same is true with your suffering. Your trial, your suffering, sets the scene for God to do an amazing work (maybe even a miracle) and thus bring glory, honor, and praise to Jesus through it. I think of what God did for years in and through the life of Corrie Ten Boom after her time of suffering in a Nazi concentration camp. I think of the wonderful things God has done in and through Bethany Hamilton after that shark attack and the loss of her arm at the age of 13. The examples are countless.

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8. Your suffering can help keep others from suffering.

An example of this is seen in the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis (Gen. 37-50). His brothers cast him into a pit, then sold him as a slave down to Egypt, where he ended up in prison, wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit. What a trial! Yet years later Joseph was able to say to his brothers…

Genesis 45:5, 50:20
“It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph rightly saw that God had sovereignly worked in the midst of the suffering to bring about great good—“the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).

And the Bible is full of accounts like these that remind us of God’s amazing ability to accomplish great good in the midst of trials and suffering. We see this in a very clear way in the suffering Jesus endured.

The arrest, mistreatment and murder of Jesus was the biggest crime committed in the history of the human race! Think of it! Sinful, evil men mocking their Creator, leading Him away to die an excruciating, horribly cruel death, nailed to a wooden cross, where He hung bleeding to death, struggling to breathe. This was the grossest, most vial, evil sin ever perpetrated by the human race.

And yet, the Bible teaches that it was through Jesus’ suffering that God brought about the greatest good that has ever occurred.

Because of Jesus’ suffering, because of His death in your place (paying the penalty for your sins), you can now have your sins forgiven. God allowed the evil actions of men to help accomplish His goal in making a way of salvation possible for you and me.

What an amazing God He is! If God can bring about this incredible good (forgiveness and everlasting life for sinners) from the greatest evil ever done, surely He can work in the midst of your suffering! And indeed, that is what He is doing and will be doing! So, I encourage you to trust in Him—trust in Him! Amen?

CLOSING PRAYER:
Father, thank You for the light of Your Word to us this tonight. You truly are an incredible, merciful, loving, and trustworthy God! And we thank You for not leaving us in the dark regarding suffering. And we thank you for those precious promises that You will never leave us or forsake us, that You're working all things together for good in the lives of those who love You, and that You have a glorious future for us in Heaven where there will no longer be any more suffering. Wonderful! We look forward to living with You in the New Jerusalem. In the meantime, we pray for our friends and family members, brothers and sisters in the faith, people in this congregation who are suffering in some way that You would minister to them. That You would heal and restore those who are in need of Your touch. That you would provide for whatever the need is. Bring glory to Your name through the situation! Bless these people. Strengthen them. Draw them close to Yourself through the trial they are in. And Father, help us to be Your hands and feet to the people in the world who are suffering. We don’t want to just acknowledge the evil and suffering around us and have some theological ability to reason about it. We want to be the kind of people who reach out to those who are suffering. We want to confront evil and help ease the suffering of people in the world. So we pray for help doing that, for wisdom, for strength, for empowering by Your Holy Spirit...Amen.

Click here for steps to peace with God.

  Charlie-Campbell 

CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL (Twitter: @charlieabready)

Charlie Campbell is the Director of the Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry and a popular guest speaker at churches and conferences. He is the author of numerous articles, books, and DVDs, including:

•  Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
•  Evidence for the Existence of God
•  One Minute Answers to Skeptics
•  Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
•  The End Times: Ten Upcoming Events in Bible Prophecy
•  The Case for the Resurrection

•  Teaching and Preaching God's Word

His DVDs and books have been endorsed by Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Chuck Smith, Ed Hindson, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jeremy Camp, and many others.

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