People sometimes wonder why God would allow so much suffering in our world.

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I often come across the view that God’s will is something that “will be done,” as in the future. We look out into the world and see misery and suffering and it’s clear that this can’t be “God’s will.” And so our way of maintaining a belief in the perfection of God and the imperfection of the world is to say that God will some day sort through it all and will ultimately somehow make everything okay. This idea is meant to help us swallow the bitter pill of the misery of the world because we surmise that at some later time everything will be worked out.

For a time I worked for and traveled the world with an international human rights agency, based out of Washington D.C. (IJM). I posed as a customer in brothels where girls as young as 12 years old are forced to provide sex to customers 4-6 times a day, six days a week. I also visited a slave labor camp, under the guise of being an investor, where boys that same age were chained to poles and worked around the clock rolling cigarettes to meet their quota or be beaten with electrical cords.

The theology that ultimately God’s will and all this horror will work out fine in the afterlife seemed to fall empty in the face of their daily torment. The violent violation of their most basic human rights is not God’s will – not then, not later, not ever. There is no later resolution as a theological rationale for their current reality.

There is only one cause of suffering in this world – our spiritual ignorance and what we rationalize out of it. The only solution is to see things as they truly are, and to begin living life by responding to situations as they require, which includes rescuing children out of brothels and slave camps.

The end of suffering is not something God does for everyone at some later point. This idea is appealing because it lets us off the hook of taking responsibility for our lives and the condition of the world. There is nothing left for God to do. Jesus said the Kingdom of God has already come.

People sometimes wonder why God would allow so much suffering in our world. Maybe instead we should be wondering why we do.

Latest Comments

  1. claire says:

    That takes an amazing amount of fortitude, but at the same time an amazing amount of love and compassion. In the presence of such human suffering or horror I don’t know how you could have made it out of those places alive to tell about it. And I’m sure after that you would never be the same. One thing for sure is you speak sense, no matter if it’s about spiritual things or ordinary everyday life circumstances.. I’m just wondering.. could you go back to those places again?

  2. Cheryl Stone says:

    And before we can stop allowing so much suffering in the world, we have to begin with stopping our own. Is that the reason so many bad things happen to so many people, because the perpetrators of the crime(s) are suffering themselves and don’t know how to alleviate it? Some would say it’s just plain evil in the world. I don’t think so – I think for some, the only way they know how to handle their own pain is to inflict it on others.

    Thanks for your courage and humanity – and love.

  3. Jeff_R says:

    Jim – I appreciate what you’re saying – and I agree that the idea of a perfected heaven has been an excuse not only for apathy in the “here-and-now” but for outright brutality in the name of religion. Having said that, your post implies that this world/physical existence is all there is. This seems to me to be very much of a veering from one ditch across the road and into the other – the “other” of physicalism, determinism, and nihilism. If our lives end with this realm and our physical existence – if our consciousness doesn’t in some sense, “carry on”, then there simply isn’t any meaning or purpose – and no such things as “good” or “evil”. Just the indifferent, irrevocable, meaningless machinations of physics. This conclusion is neither supported by evidence or reason nor is it a worldview that calls humanity to common care, to the brother/sisterhood of humanitty, to self-sacrifice for the good of others, for investing ourselves in the preservation of our planet and the improvement of our and other species on earth. Have I missed something?

    • Francis says:

      Regardless of what any religious tradition, psychic, medium, or holy text may say, the fact is that nobody knows for certain what will happen to our consciousness upon bodily death. In the end it’s all a matter of perspective. Many would respond to sentiments like your with the something like this: “Is something actually without meaning or value simply because it comes to an end? Does this mean that the cinematic value of all movies are the same because the all come to an end?” Just food for thought.

      • jeff_r says:

        Francis – Thanks for the reply – I appreciate the thought. I do, however, believe that if something comes to a final and complete end – and all the impact and influence of that thing comes to a final and complete end, then, yes, it had no meaning. Art, beauty, literature, love, are all imbued with meaning because of the *impact* that they have on other minds/souls. Erase all the minds/souls – the creators and the “experiencers” – and nothing *really* happened at all.

  4. andrew schmidt says:

    I’ve always thought that just about all of the evil in the world comes from not listening to the second commandment. Humanity knows the way to paradise, we just don’t follow it out of selfishness or laziness. Tragically, these poor little ones haven’t been exposed to much REAL humanity.

    • Ian Williams says:

      Actually it is from not honoring the ONLY COMMANDMENT to the disciple, to love, one to another as I (He) first loved you.” The Ten Commandments are for transgressions until the Promise should come and the Day Star arise in your heart.

  5. Teeg Stouffer says:

    That’s it right there, Jim – what you said. We need more of this kind of thinking and this kind of talk, but mostly we need a lot more of this kind of action.

  6. Puddleglum says:

    You and others have tried to do something, and yet this trafficking in people continues. THAT is what people are referring to when they ask “Why does God allow?” You see, many of us have encountered our own injustices and tried to do something about it — including bringing it to the public attention as you have done here and in your books. Yet these injustices continue. What we are left with is an awareness that we can’t and God won’t. That is what we find troubling about out faith and results in us lashing out against others because we can’t rail against God.

  7. Ian Williams says:

    The problem is simple, as is the answer. The love of money, or greed for gain, is the root of every evil. Adam fell for it when Satan said, “Has God said?” He used the lure of GAIN!

    If you want to know how to bring the kingdom to earth it is simple. God’s instrument of Power is His Word (and I do NOT mean the Bible – the concept of everything being of or about a book is Kabbalah 101, not Christ 101, which is forgiveness and mercy).

    BY speaking the Will and Word of God over a matter, we may impose Holy hegemony – the kingdom of God and heaven is NOT in word but it is in demonstration of Power. The Power of God is the good news – to say the gospel is the power is like saying the recipe is the cake.

    OK, so if you have the SWORD, you have the WORD, living and active, and the mandate to wield it in Love, you can do the greater works. An example. A few years back, a brother sent me a prayer request from a missionary in India. There was a terrible persecution happening in Orissa. My acquaintance told me God had told him to send it to me. I asked in the Spirit how I might pray, and was told to command a Host of Angels to come down from heaven to drive the demons away. As I did, the Lord showed me the scene of a huge host of Angels with bright shiny swords held aloft, and white horses with nostrils flaring, ready for the battle, excited! They swooped down out of heaven and set about routing the demons, which fled before the heavenly host. The Holy Spirit said to me, Look at the demons!” THEY HAD NO WEAPONS!

    A few days later, I received confirmation that the persecution had suddenly and miraculously stopped. God has got the goods, but He looks for ONE MAN who will stand in the gap between the kingdom and the earth, who will pray on behalf of those who do not know how to pray – this is what it means to pray on behalf of all men everywhere – because most of them do not know how to pray, and when they do, they only ask for their own needs to be met, when if they only new it, they already are.

    God said to me, “Prayer is not communication WITH God, it is the communication OF God.”

    It is how His will is done in earth as it is done in heaven – it is how the kingdom reign is brought to bear in the earth. When God’s will is your will you will ask what you will. We look for social answers to spiritual problems and so we savor of the things of man instead of the things of God and we become adversaries to God’s will – humanism is Satanism. But it is the Father within, He does the works.

    When God invited me to ask the “hard” questions, one was, “What about all the suffering in the world, what is with that?” The answer – “Ian, never forget, it is only flesh, you cannot harm Spirit”. If you have God’s Word on it, then you have His Power, for His Word is the instrument of His Power and the means by which His kingdom is made manifest in the Earth. When Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is approaching you, it is even in your midst” it was the King who said it – the King and the kingdom are One, and Jesus is the Power of God, the manifest Word.

    John the Immerser said,
    2. And he said, “Repent! The kingdom of heaven is approaching!”

    17. From then on Jesus began preaching and proclaiming, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is approaching.” Matthew’s gospel.

    14. After John was betrayed, Jesus came to Galilee, and preached the Hope of the Kingdom of God,
    15. And he said, “The Age has ended,* and the Kingdom of God has arrived. Repent and believe in the Hope [of the Kingdom.]
    *1:15 Lit. Ar. idiomatic figure of speech: “The season is finished,” “Time is up,” or in other words, “The Age of the Old Testament is over.” Mark’s gospel

    9. “And heal the sick that are there in, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God has approached* you.’
    *10:9 Lit Ar. idiomatic construction retained: “Has been given to you.”

    20. “However, if by the finger of God I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God is approaching you. Both from Luke’s gospel.

    3. Jesus replied and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, if [the]
    human [being] is not born from above*, they cannot see the Kingdom of
    God.”
    3:3 Lit. Ar. id.: “From the head,” or “again.”

    It is this simple folks – your body came up out of the ground and your spirit came down from heaven out of God – both will return to where they came from. You won’t rightly comprehend the kingdom until you see it from the perspective that is from above, and to do this you must become as a little child – to be “born again” – born from above. It is the part of you that is born from above which can comprehend this – it has to be spiritually discerned.

    John wrote of a NEW commandment, yet not “new”, but old, or as at or from the beginning, from BEFORE the foundations of the worlds, when God had a Lamb slain, as it were. Old, as in original, but New, as in at the beginning. Now that will spin a few of you right out, and excite the hell out of others, hopefully.

  8. Ian Williams says:

    Oh, and in the Aramaic, the text from 1 Timothy 6 reads:

    7. For we neither brought anything into the world, nor can we even take out what we learned from it.
    8. That is why all we worry about is food and clothing.
    9. Those, however, who wish to be wealthy, will fall to temptation, in pitfalls and into a multitude of foolish and searing lusts that will sink humanity into the throes of destruction and ultimately oblivion.
    10. For the root of every evil is the consideration for money (money’s compassion) above all else, and there are people who absolutely adore money, and they lose all faith and open themselves up to a multitude of demons.

    All our concerns are merely about provision – food and covering. We can have regard or compassion for God or for money, but not for both, we cannot serve two masters.

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