Evil and Suffering—How Will They End?
BITTER experiences often embitter. What, though, if there is a legitimate reason for human suffering? With that in mind, let us continue the account regarding Job. After three rounds of bitter debate have elapsed, a young man named Elihu speaks up. He says to Job: “You have said, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s.’” Yes, Job had been self-centered and self-justifying. “Look!” says Elihu. “In this you have not been in the right, I answer you; for God is much more than mortal man.”—Job 35:2; 33:8-12.
God has left abundant evidence that he is good. (Acts 14:17; Romans 1:20) So is the existence of evil any reason to challenge the goodness of God? Answers Elihu: “Far be it from the true God to act wickedly, and the Almighty to act unjustly!”—Job 34:10.
God—Powerless Against Evil?
Could it be, then, that God was simply not powerful enough to intervene on Job’s behalf or that of anyone else? On the contrary! Out of a fear-inspiring windstorm, God now speaks for himself, powerfully confirming his almightiness. “Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth?” he demands of Job. Why, far from being limited, he speaks of himself as the One who can control the seas and govern the heavens and its living creatures.—Job 38:4, 8-10, 33; 39:9; 40:15; 41:1.
True, God does not explain to Job why he permitted him to suffer. But “should there be any contending of a faultfinder with the Almighty?” God asks. “Really, will you invalidate my justice? Will you pronounce me wicked in order that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:2, 8) How presumptuous, then, to blame God for the world’s ills or fabricate philosophical defenses for him! As Job is now moved to do, such ones would do well to “make a retraction” of their contradictory theories.—Job 42:6.
Issues to Be Settled
Job did not realize that his sufferings involved a number of monumental issues that had been raised shortly after man’s creation. At that time a rebellious spirit creature called Satan (“Resister”) had led man into sin. God had commanded Adam and Eve to avoid eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” They had to respect God’s right to determine what was good or bad for them. The Resister, however, planted doubts in Eve’s mind, saying: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” Next he contradicted God: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God.”—Genesis 2:17; 3:1-5.
Satan’s slanderous words raised imposing issues: Was God a liar when he decreed death for eating the forbidden fruit? Even so, what right did he have to rob his creatures of independence and to impose his standards upon them? Was he not a selfish God, holding back what was good from his creatures? Could it be that independence from God was desirable?
Killing off the rebels would have done little more than raise more questions. Only by allowing independence from God to go unchecked for a sufficient period of time can it be proved—once for all time—that Satan’s offer of independence is an invitation to disaster. Yes, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil, not in the power of God. (1 John 5:19) Disease, injustice, economic slavery, heartache—all of these have been the fruitage of man’s choosing independence from God and coming under satanic rule! And in spite of any technological progress, world conditions continue to worsen—often because of modern technology.
God’s toleration of all this indescribable misery, however, does not make him unrighteous. On the contrary, man’s unrighteousness has ‘brought God’s righteousness to the fore.’ (Romans 3:5) How?
“All creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now,” said the apostle Paul. (Romans 8:22) Yes, 6,000 disastrous years of human independence have shown the words of Jeremiah 10:23 to be true: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” Soon, though, God will righteously intervene and begin directing the affairs of mankind.
With the catastrophic consequences of human independence so thoroughly exposed, God can then eliminate all the things that have caused suffering: wars, disease, crime, violence—even death itself! (Psalm 46:8, 9; Isaiah 35:5, 6; Psalm 37:10, 11; John 5:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 15:26) It is as the apostle John heard in a heavenly vision: “God . . . will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Revelation 21:3, 4.
Interestingly, God ended Job’s sufferings by restoring his health and wealth and by blessing him with a large family. (Job 42:10-17) Similarly, the Bible promises us: “The sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed . . . The creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18, 21) Wickedness will thus be virtually erased from our memories!—Compare Isaiah 65:17.
Living With Evil
Until that freedom comes, we must endure living in a wicked world, not expecting God to shield us from personal calamity. Satan the Devil raised a false hope when he enticed Jesus Christ to jump off the temple, twisting the Bible text at Psalm 91:10-12, which says: “No calamity will befall you . . . For he will give his own angels a command concerning you, to guard you.” Jesus, though, rejected any notion of receiving miraculous physical protection. (Matthew 4:5-7) God promises to guard only our spiritual well-being.
True Christians therefore do not become “enraged against Jehovah himself,” even when tragedy strikes. (Proverbs 19:3) For “time and unforeseen occurrence befall” Christians too. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Yet, we are not helpless. We have the hope of living forever in a righteous new world, where evil will no longer exist. We can always approach Jehovah God in prayer, for he promises to endow us with the wisdom needed to endure any trial! (James 1:5) We also enjoy the support of fellow Christians. (1 John 3:17, 18) And we have the knowledge that our faithfulness under trial makes Jehovah’s heart rejoice!—Proverbs 27:11.
Still, enduring evil is never easy. Thus, when comforting one in the midst of suffering, it is good to ‘weep with those who weep’—and offer practical assistance. (Romans 12:15) Ana, mentioned at the outset, was thus helped to recover from disaster. She is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and found that her fellow Christians were more than willing to assist, offering her temporary housing. Even though she occasionally feels depressed, she finds refuge in the Bible’s hope. “I know my children will come back in the resurrection,” states Ana. Her faith in the God of goodness is thus stronger than ever.
If you are going through a period of suffering, ask Jehovah’s Witnesses to help you with your questions and doubts. From them you can also obtain the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, which has the helpful chapters “Why Has God Permitted Wickedness?” and “You Are Involved in a Vital Issue.” True, right now bad things happen to good people, but soon all of that is to change. Find out more details for yourself by contacting Jehovah’s Witnesses in your neighborhood or write to the publishers of this magazine.
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In God’s righteous new world, evil will be but a fading memory