Why Has God Permitted Unhappiness?
1. Why should we be interested in knowing God’s reason for permitting wickedness? (Psalm 94:2, 3)
HISTORY contains a frightful record of man’s inhumanity to man. Its pages are bloodied by religious wars, massacres and persecutions. Horrible destruction of innocent people has accompanied the two world wars that Christendom started and the wars that have followed in Korea, Indochina and other places. Violence, revolution and crime continue to flare up in many countries. Why does God permit these terrible conditions? Why has he not removed unhappiness long ago? God himself explains why, in his Book of “good news.”
2. (a) Can God remove wickedness, and does he want to? (Joel 1:15) (b) How has God shown wisdom in this matter?
2 The God who could create the vast universe certainly has the power to remove all unhappiness. As the ‘God of love,’ he really cares for humankind. However, he is also the God of “practical wisdom.” (1 John 4:16; Proverbs 2:6, 7) His wisdom is shown in his taking time to settle an issue of universal importance. Though this has meant his permission of unhappiness for a season, yet the long-range result will assure eternal happiness for all intelligent creatures in the universe.
3. (a) Illustrate why time is needed to settle the issue. (b) Why is the time required comparatively brief? (Habakkuk 2:3)
3 This may be compared to the trial of a notorious murderer. It may take months to argue the case, sift all the evidence and arrive at a righteous and conclusive judgment. Then the murderer may be put away, and all others whose lives may have been endangered because of him can be happy that the threat has been removed. Similarly, time—some six thousand years—has been required to settle an issue raised by a manslayer, God’s archenemy, but how brief is this time when compared with the eternity of happiness that lies ahead! For in God’s sight “a thousand years are . . . but as yesterday when it is past.”—Psalm 90:4.
4. (a) What is the great issue? (Psalm 83:18) (b) In what way has God’s sovereignty been put in question?
4 What is the great issue that must be settled? It involves Jehovah’s sovereignty over his creatures. At the time of the rebellion in Eden, Satan put God’s sovereignty at issue. Not that he had power to remove God as Sovereign. No, but he raised the question, Is God’s sovereignty over his creatures right and in their best interests? Is that sovereignty righteous, and does it deserve their support? Through a serpent, Satan said to Eve in Eden: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” After attacking Jehovah’s sovereignty by insinuating that He had lied, Satan persuaded Eve, and through her Adam, to take themselves out from under God’s sovereignty, to be independent and decide for themselves what is “good” and what is “bad.” (Genesis 3:1-5) Thus it was the rightness, righteousness and deservedness of God’s sovereignty that was called into question.
5. (a) Why has God permitted wickedness? (Romans 9:17) (b) How will God’s judgment serve for all eternity?
5 God sentenced the wicked rebels to death. But he permitted them to keep living for a time, and he allowed Adam and Eve to bring forth imperfect offspring. Indeed, he has permitted wickedness to continue, under Satan’s rule, to this present day. And why? To prove once and for all time that his sovereignty is altogether righteous and that no creatures can enjoy lasting happiness independent of his sovereignty and righteous laws. Thus he convicts Satan as a “manslayer,” liar, slanderer and deceiver, and removes him together with all other lawless ones. Then God’s judgment will stand as a precedent and serve as a touchstone throughout eternity in the event any creature again calls into question the sovereignty of Jehovah.—John 8:44.
6. (a) What has been demonstrated regarding man-rule? (b) What picture does man-rule present today? (Ecclesiastes 8:9)
6 How has this trial in the court of the universe worked out? Man has demonstrated clearly that he is unable to govern properly outside God’s sovereignty. It has been exactly as the prophet Jeremiah states:
“I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23)
At no time has this been more apparent than today, when the world is divided into Democratic, Communistic and “Third World” segments. Internally, these segments are split by further disunities. In man-rule, corruption and lying diplomacy are to be found everywhere. While one quarter of the world of mankind is starving for food, rulers spend huge sums on arming themselves, in many cases with nuclear weapons capable of annihilating the entire human race. Most rulers are in economic or other serious trouble, and often they are toppled overnight. Any alliances made by statesmen fit the description of Psalm 127:1:
“Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it.”
7. (a) Why is God-rule superior to man-rule? (Psalm 45:6) (b) What will God now do with regard to man-rule, and why? (Nahum 1:9)
7 There are basic reasons why Jehovah’s sovereignty is vastly superior to man-rule. God’s sovereignty is based on love, which is “a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) Man-rule usually deteriorates into selfishness and greediness. God’s sovereignty has power to unite and “to gather all things together.” (Ephesians 1:10) Man-rule fosters division, hatred and strife. God’s sovereignty is exercised “by means of justice and . . . righteousness.” (Isaiah 9:7) Man-rule is usually oppressive of the poor and partial to the rich. It has proved under test to be a dismal failure, and now God is about to move it out of the way in order to exercise fully his own righteous sovereignty over the earth again.
8. What challenge did Satan raise regarding Job?
8 However, a related issue was also raised in the garden of Eden. It is this: Since the first humans rebelled, can God put any man on earth who will remain loyal to him under test? The Bible book of Job shows that there is such an issue. Its first two chapters describe what happened in the courts of heaven some 3,500 or more years ago. There, as the heavenly sons of God assembled before Jehovah, Satan also appeared, and Jehovah spoke:
“Jehovah went on to say to Satan: ‘Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad?’ At that Satan answered Jehovah and said: ‘Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around? The work of his hands you have blessed, and his livestock itself has spread abroad in the earth. But, for a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.’”—Job 1:8-11.
9. What record did Job make, and how was he rewarded? (Job 42:12-16; James 5:11)
9 Jehovah permitted this test. Job lost his livestock, and his children in death, but he did not curse God, or turn against him. Later, when Satan afflicted him with a loathsome disease, his wife said finally in desperation: “Curse God and die!” But he still held fast his integrity to God. Three false comforters then added to his suffering, but Job declared:
“Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity from myself!” (Job 2:9, 10; 27:5)
Later, Job was rewarded richly for his integrity-keeping.
10. What record have other integrity-keepers made? (Hebrews 12:1)
10 The Bible record, including Hebrews chapter 11, shows that many others of mankind have chosen unselfishly to uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty, despite every kind of fiendish assault that Satan could make on their integrity. The long line of integrity-keepers continues down to this day.
11. (a) What examples of integrity-keepers are there today? (Proverbs 27:11) (b) How will God vindicate his sovereignty, and for how long? (Ezekiel 36:23)
11 As an example, during Hitler’s reign in Germany, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses refused to salute the Nazi flag and to accept the dictator as their savior. Many hundreds sealed their integrity with their lifeblood. One of these, on the night of his execution, sent the following message, which is typical, to his beloved wife:
“When this letter reaches you my life will be fulfilled. We know that the sting has been removed from death and victory has been won over the grave. . . . The hour will come when the name of the Almighty God will be vindicated and mankind will see it. When they ask today why he has not done this up till now, then we know it is because His power will thereby be demonstrated more effectively. . . . I have now reached the end, and I pray that you may also endure . . . so I look once more into your serene and glistening eyes, and wipe away the last sorrow from your heart; and, in spite of the pain, lift up your head and rejoice, not about death, but over the life that God will give those that love Him.”
Shortly, Jehovah will vindicate his sovereignty, and all those who have supported it, in a demonstration of power against his enemies that will exalt his name “in all the earth.”—Exodus 9:16.
THE OUTSTANDING KEEPER OF INTEGRITY
12. Who was most suited to prove Jehovah’s side of the issue, and how did he become human? (John 1:14)
12 However, the issue of integrity involves more than us humans. Even an angel of heaven had rebelled to become Satan, and other ‘sons of God’ later joined him in rebellion. (Genesis 6:4, 5) The issue is thus universal. No one could better prove Jehovah’s side of the issue than the highest person in the universe next to Jehovah—the “master worker” who had assisted him in the creation! This heavenly Son gladly consented to God’s transferring his life to the womb of an Israelite virgin, Mary, so that he was born as a human on this earth where Satan had raised the issue.
13. How did Jesus meet Satan’s challenge? (1 Peter 2:21-23)
13 After growing to adulthood, God’s Son Jesus was baptized in symbol of his presenting himself to carry out the special task that God assigned to him. Satan soon came to the attack! He offered Jesus the sovereignty, which Satan then held, over all human kingdoms on earth, provided he would do an act of worship to Satan and so break integrity to Jehovah. Jesus answered Satan:
“Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”—Matthew 4:10.
14. Why could Jesus say that Satan had ‘no hold on him’?
14 Having failed to budge Jesus from following the righteous law of Jehovah, Satan next put tremendous pressure on him through the religious leaders of his day. They persecuted him cruelly and finally had him put to death on an execution stake, but they failed to make him swerve from the path of perfect integrity and obedience to God’s sovereignty. On the day of his death, Jesus could say of Satan: “He has no hold on me.” (John 14:30) On the third day thereafter, Jehovah rewarded His faithful Son by resurrecting him in the spirit and later exalting him to His own “right hand” of favor in heaven.—Acts 2:32, 33.
15. How did Jesus encourage his disciples, and what have they proved to be? (Philippians 2:5, 8, 9)
15 To his loyal disciples this integrity-keeper had declared:
“In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus’ apostles and many Christians after them have also proved to be integrity-keepers, down to the death.
TRIED AND FAITHFUL RULERS
16. Why can mankind have confidence in earth’s new administration? (Isaiah 32:1)
16 Another important purpose has been accomplished by God’s permitting Jesus’ disciples to endure trials and persecutions. Just as Jesus himself “learned obedience from the things he suffered,” so these, too, have been trained and molded through sufferings to develop the same sterling qualities of loyalty to God’s sovereignty. The Bible shows that God selects a “little flock” of these disciples of Jesus, “a hundred and forty-four thousand” in number, to share in a spiritual “first resurrection,” and to rule with Christ in his thousand-year kingdom over mankind. What a contrast that heavenly Kingdom rule will be to the corrupt, unprincipled man-rule of today! Further, the future visible administrators of all the earth are to include men like Job and a multitude of other integrity-keepers, both of ancient times and of this twentieth century where we now live! What confidence mankind will have in that administration!—Hebrews 5:8; Luke 12:32; Revelation 14:1-5; 20:6.
17. Why has God’s long-suffering been beneficial to us? (2 Peter 3:9, 15)
17 We should be happy that Jehovah has been “long-suffering” in holding back from destroying the wicked, for it has given many the opportunity to take Jehovah’s side of the great issue. (Romans 2:4) May you also be blessed in supporting his sovereignty!
18. (a) How will God execute judgment? (Jeremiah 25:31) (b) What kind of place will earth then become? (Isaiah 11:9)
18 The long-standing issue involving God’s sovereignty and man’s integrity is about to be settled once and for all time, and completely in Jehovah’s favor. Shortly, Jehovah will execute his “court judgment” in ousting from the earth Satan and all others who oppose God’s rule. Earth will then become a glorious place where “every breathing thing” will “praise Jah,” Jehovah. (Psalm 150:6) But to keep on praising God, man will need to keep on living. How could this be possible? The next chapter will tell.
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A court trial takes time. So, too, the great issue of sovereignty must be fully examined
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Job, sorely tried, kept integrity
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Jesus Christ, the greatest integrity-keeper of all
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Thousand-year kingdom of Christ will exalt Jehovah’s righteous sovereignty and bless all mankind