A common deflection used by secularists is, "If God is real, why is there evil and suffering?" The reason I call it a deflection is because it isn't an honest question (Romans 1:18-19). Rather, it is an effort to silence believers and the nagging voice of conscience.
The usual response is some form of, "Well, God has to give us free will." But there are two fundamental problems with that answer. First is the belief - erroneous though it may be - of the unbeliever that he didn't choose whatever suffering he has known in his life. That belief immediately shuts down his participation in the discussion. Second, and more importantly, is that it isn't biblical! The phrase "free will" appears nowhere in Scripture, and God never promises to honor our imaginations on His behalf.
However, God has condescended to give His answer to the question.
In Job 36:15, we read, "He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ears by affliction." God brings pain into the lives of the elect that they may turn to Him. Sufferings cause us to despise this world and the comforts of sin, and to turn to Him for mercy, relief, and hope.
Once a person reaches that point, then, and only then, he is ready to talk about the Fall, and how it brought disease, death, and futility into our experience (Genesis 3:17-19, Isaiah 24:4-6, Romans 5:12, 8:22). And then we can talk about the solution: "If many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many" (Romans 5:16).
Suffering entered the world through man's sin, but God gives it purpose and meaning in the life of the elect: to turn him to redemption in Jesus Christ. Understanding the source and purpose of evil is the only way to understand the solution!
Holy Hatred of Sin
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