ON THE morning of November 1, 1755, the city of Lisbon, Portugal, was rocked by an earthquake. A tsunami and fires followed, destroying much of the city and killing thousands.
Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, an editorial in Canada’s National Post newspaper stated: “All great tragedies test humanity’s faith in a higher power. But some, like this modern day reprise of [that great tragedy in] Lisbon, more than others.” The article concluded: “God may have abandoned Haiti.”
As “the Almighty One,” Jehovah God has unlimited power, including the ability to end suffering. (Psalm 91:1) Furthermore, we can be sure that he cares. Why?
What Do We Know About God?
God feels compassion for humans who suffer. When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and mistreated by their captors, God told Moses: “Unquestionably I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry as a result of those who drive them to work; because I well know the pains they suffer.” (Exodus 3:7) What does this indicate? That God does not look upon human suffering with indifference. On the contrary, centuries later the prophet Isaiah wrote regarding the Israelites: “During all their distress it was distressing to him.”—Isaiah 63:9.
“All his ways are justice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) God is fair and impartial in everything he does. “He will guard the very way of his loyal ones,” but he will also “repay tribulation to those who make tribulation” for the righteous. (Proverbs 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:6, 7) Impartially, “he does not take the side of rulers nor favor the rich over the poor, for he created everyone.” (Job 34:19, Today’s English Version) God also knows the best way to heal mankind’s suffering. By contrast, human solutions can be compared to putting a bandage on a gunshot wound. While the bandage might mask the problem, it does little to address the underlying issue and even less to end the suffering of the victim.
Would a doctor use a simple bandage to treat a bleeding gunshot wound?
God is “merciful and gracious . . . and abundant in loving-kindness.” (Exodus 34:6) The word “mercy,” as used in the Bible, conveys the warm sympathy and pity that move one person to help another. The root of the Hebrew word translated “gracious” is defined as “a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need.” According to the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, the word translated “loving-kindness” includes “intervention on behalf of someone suffering misfortune or distress.” Jehovah God not only feels hurt when a human suffers but is moved by his mercy, graciousness, and loving-kindness to offer help. Thus, we can be confident that he will end suffering.
The previous article identified three factors that contribute to much of human suffering today, none of which can be attributed to God. Let us now consider what is behind those factors.
Adam was originally ruled by God. However, when offered the choice, he decided to reject divine rulership and test the consequences of independence from God. He disregarded Jehovah’s warning recorded at Genesis 2:17: “You will positively die.” Failure to submit to God’s perfect rule resulted in sin and imperfection. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin,” explains the Bible, “and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) But God will remove the effects of sin.
As noted above, the first man, Adam, rejected divine guidance—the very guidance needed to keep humans safe—even from natural disasters. His decision might be compared to a patient who rejects the care of a skilled and experienced physician. If the patient is unaware of dangers and potential health complications that are known to the doctor, he may suffer for his willful ignorance. Similarly, it is man’s mismanagement of the earth—including unsafe building practices and ignorance concerning the earth’s natural forces—that is often at the root of natural disasters. However, God will not allow this situation to continue indefinitely.
“The Ruler of This World”
Why did God allow Satan to rule the world after his rebellion? According to one source, “new regimes of any kind have a brief initial period when they can blame problems on the previous government.” If Jehovah had prematurely overthrown “the ruler of this world,” Satan could have blamed his inadequacies on the previous Ruler, God. (John 12:31) However, allowing time to pass for Satan to fully express his authority over the world has proved his failure as a ruler. Nevertheless, the question remains, How can we be sure that suffering will end?