Comfort in the Accurate Knowledge of God
FOR some people, what the Bible says about God’s love and mercy raises troubling questions. They ask: If God wants to eliminate evil, knows how to do it, and has the power to do it, why does evil continue to abound? For them the problem is to reconcile three propositions: (1) God is all-powerful; (2) God is loving and good; and (3) calamitous events continue to take place. They reason that since the last proposition is undeniably true, then at least one of the other two cannot be true. To them, either God is unable to stop evil or he is unconcerned.
Several days after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York, a prominent religious leader in the United States said: “I have been asked . . . hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction.”
In reaction to this comment, a professor of theology wrote that he was touched by “the good theology” that this religious leader preached. He also endorsed the view of a scholar who wrote: “The incomprehensibility of suffering is part of the incomprehensibility of God.” But is it really impossible to understand why God allows evil?
The Origin of Evil
In contrast with what religious leaders may say, the Bible does not portray God’s permission of evil as incomprehensible. A key point in understanding the question of evil is to recognize that Jehovah did not create a wicked world. He created the first human couple perfect, without sin. Jehovah looked upon his creative work and found it to be “very good.” (Genesis 1:26, 31) It was his purpose for Adam and Eve to extend the Paradise of Eden earth wide and to populate it with happy people under the protection of his loving sovereignty.—Isaiah 45:18.
Evil began with a spirit creature who, though originally faithful to God, developed a desire to be worshiped. (James 1:14, 15) His rebellion manifested itself on earth when he influenced the first human couple to join him in his opposition to God. Instead of submitting to God’s clear instruction not to eat or touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve took some and ate it. (Genesis 3:1-6) In so doing, they not only disobeyed God but also showed that they desired independence from him.
A Moral Issue Was Raised
This rebellion in Eden raised a moral issue, a challenge of universal importance. The human rebels called into question whether Jehovah properly exercised his rulership over his creatures. Did the Creator have the right to require full obedience from humankind? Might people be better off if they acted independently?
Jehovah handled this challenge to his rulership in a way that demonstrated his perfect balance of love, justice, wisdom, and power. He could have used his power to crush the rebellion immediately. That might have seemed just, since he had the right to do so. But doing so would not have answered the moral questions that had been raised. On the other hand, God could have simply overlooked the sin. Such a course might seem to some today to be a loving option. Yet, this too would fail to address Satan’s claim that humans would be better off ruling themselves. Furthermore, would such a course not encourage still others to deviate from Jehovah’s way? The result would be endless suffering.
In his wisdom, Jehovah has allowed humans to go their own way for a time. Even though this has meant permitting evil to remain temporarily, humans have thus had the opportunity to show whether they can successfully rule themselves independent of God, living by their own standards of what is right and wrong. What has been the result? Human history has consistently been characterized by war, injustice, oppression, and suffering. The ultimate failure of the rebellion against Jehovah will settle the issues raised in Eden once and for all time.
Meanwhile, God has displayed his love by providing his Son, Jesus Christ, who gave up his human life as a ransom sacrifice. This enables obedient humans to be freed from the condemnation of sin and death that resulted from Adam’s disobedience. The ransom has opened the way to everlasting life for all who exercise faith in Jesus.—John 3:16.
We have Jehovah’s comforting assurance that human suffering is temporary. “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more,” wrote the psalmist. “You will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:10, 11.
A Future of Security and Happiness
Fulfillment of Bible prophecies shows that the time for God to bring an end to sickness, sorrow, and death is at hand. Note what a wonderful glimpse of things to come was given to the apostle John in a vision. He wrote: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. . . . And God himself will be with [mankind]. And he 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.” In a statement that emphasizes the trustworthiness of these promises, John was told: “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”—Revelation 21:1-5.
What about the billions of innocent people who have died since the rebellion in Eden? Jehovah promised that he will bring back to life people now sleeping in death. The apostle Paul said: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) These ones will have the prospect of living in a world in which “righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 3:13.
Just as a loving father will allow his child to undergo a painful operation if he knows it will bring lasting benefits, so Jehovah has allowed humans to experience the temporary existence of evil on earth. Yet, an eternity of blessings awaits all who seek to do God’s will. Paul explained: “The creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Romans 8:20, 21.
This truly is news—not the kind we see on television or read in the newspaper but good news. It is the best of news from “the God of all comfort,” who really cares for us.—2 Corinthians 1:3.
[Pictures on page 6]
Time has shown that mankind cannot successfully rule themselves independent of God
Somalian family: UN PHOTO 159849/M. GRANT; atom bomb: USAF photo; concentration camp: U.S. National Archives photo