Why All Suffering Is Soon to End
“The Rock, perfect is his activity.”—DEUTERONOMY 32:4.
1, 2. (a) Why do you cherish the hope of living forever? (b) What prevents many from believing in the God who makes wonderful promises for the future?
DO YOU love to imagine life in Paradise? Maybe you see yourself exploring this marvelous planet and learning about its almost endless variety of living things. Or perhaps you ponder the satisfaction you will feel as you work with others to tend to the earth and help transform it into a global park. Or you may contemplate the talents you could develop in art, architecture, music, or other pursuits for which you can find no time in today’s hectic life. In any case, you cherish the hope of living what the Bible calls “the real life”—life as Jehovah meant us to live it, with eternity in view.—1 Timothy 6:19.
2 It is a pleasure and a precious privilege to share that Bible-based hope with others, is it not? Many, however, turn away from such a hope. They dismiss it as an illusion, an unrealistic dream for gullible people. They may even find it hard to believe in the God who promises everlasting life in Paradise. Why? For some, the obstacle involves what is often called the problem of evil. They feel that if God exists and is almighty and loving, the evil and suffering in the world cannot be explained. No God who tolerates evil could exist, they reason—or if he exists, either he is not almighty or he does not care about us. To some, this kind of reasoning sounds convincing. Satan has surely proved adept at blinding human minds.—2 Corinthians 4:4.
3. What difficult question can we help people to answer, and why are we in a unique position to do so?
3 As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are in a unique position to help people who are being deceived by Satan and the wisdom of this world. (1 Corinthians 1:20; 3:19) We see why many do not believe in the Bible’s promises. They simply do not know Jehovah. They may not know his name or its significance, and they likely know little or nothing of his qualities or of his record in keeping his promises. We are blessed to have such knowledge. From time to time, it is good for us to review how we can help people who are “in darkness mentally” to find the answer to one of the hardest questions humans ask, “Why does God allow evil and suffering?” (Ephesians 4:18) First we will consider how to approach the answer effectively. Then we will discuss how Jehovah’s qualities are evident in the way he has handled the matter of evil.
Finding the Right Approach
4, 5. What may we need to do first when someone raises the question of why God permits suffering? Explain.
4 When someone asks why God allows suffering, how do we respond? We may be inclined to launch right into a detailed explanation, starting with what happened in the garden of Eden. In some cases, that may be fine. A word of caution is in order, though. Some groundwork may be needed. (Proverbs 25:11; Colossians 4:6) Let us consider three Scriptural points that we may want to establish briefly before delving into the answer to the question.
5 First, if the person is particularly disturbed about the prevalence of evil in the world, it is likely that evil has touched him or his loved ones personally. It may be wise, then, to start by showing genuine empathy. The apostle Paul counseled Christians: “Weep with people who weep.” (Romans 12:15) Showing empathy, or “fellow feeling,” may touch the person. (1 Peter 3:8) If he understands that we care about him, he is more likely to listen to what we have to say.
6, 7. Why might we rightly commend a sincere person who raises a troubling spiritual question?
6 Second, we may commend the sincere person for raising this question. Some people conclude that because they struggle with such questions, they are faithless or disrespectful toward God. They may even have been told as much by a clergyman. However, that is not necessarily the case. After all, faithful people in Bible times asked similar questions. For example, the psalmist David asked: “Why, O Jehovah, do you keep standing afar off? Why do you keep yourself hid in times of distress?” (Psalm 10:1) Similarly, the prophet Habakkuk asked: “How long, O Jehovah, must I cry for help, and you do not hear? How long shall I call to you for aid from violence, and you do not save? Why is it that you make me see what is hurtful, and you keep looking upon mere trouble? And why are despoiling and violence in front of me, and why does quarreling occur, and why is strife carried?”—Habakkuk 1:2, 3.
7 These were faithful men who had a great deal of respect for God. Were they rebuked for raising such troubling questions? On the contrary, Jehovah saw fit to have their sincere questions recorded in his Word. Today, a person who struggles with the prevalence of evil may actually be hungering spiritually—longing for answers that only the Bible can provide. Remember, Jesus spoke well of those who are spiritually hungry, or who are “conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) What a privilege it is to help such ones find the happiness that Jesus promised!
8. What confusing teachings have led people to believe that God is responsible for suffering, and how can we help them?
8 Third, we may need to help the person to see that God is not responsible for the wickedness so prevalent in the world. Many people are taught that God is ruling this world that we live in, that God long ago determined everything that happens to us, and that he has mysterious, inscrutable reasons for inflicting misery on mankind. These teachings are false. They dishonor God and make him out to be responsible for the wickedness and suffering in the world. So we may have to use God’s Word to set such matters straight. (2 Timothy 3:16) Jehovah is not the ruler of this corrupt system of things; Satan the Devil is. (1 John 5:19) Jehovah does not predestine his intelligent creatures; he gives each one freedom and opportunities to choose between good and bad, right and wrong. (Deuteronomy 30:19) And Jehovah is never the source of wickedness; he hates wickedness and cares for those who suffer unjustly.—Job 34:10; Proverbs 6:16-19; 1 Peter 5:7.
9. What are some tools that “the faithful and discreet slave” has provided in order to help people understand why Jehovah God permits suffering?
9 Once you have laid such groundwork, you may find that your listener is ready to learn why God allows suffering to continue. To help you, “the faithful and discreet slave” has provided a number of tools. (Matthew 24:45-47) For instance, at the “Godly Obedience” District Convention of 2005/06, a tract entitled All Suffering Soon to End! was released. If this tract is available in your language, why not familiarize yourself with its contents? Similarly, the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?, now available in 157 languages, devotes a chapter to this important question. Make full use of such tools. They clearly explain the Scriptural background of the issue of universal sovereignty that was raised in Eden and why Jehovah handled that challenge as he did. Keep in mind, too, that as you discuss this subject, you are opening up to your listener the most important field of knowledge there is. It is the knowledge of Jehovah and his wonderful qualities.
Focus on Jehovah’s Qualities
10. What do many find it hard to understand about God’s permission of suffering, and what knowledge may help them?
10 As you help people to understand why Jehovah has allowed humans to rule themselves under Satan’s influence, try to draw attention to Jehovah’s wonderful qualities. Many people know that God is powerful; they are used to hearing him called God Almighty. However, they may find it hard to grasp why he does not use his great power to end injustice and suffering right away. They probably lack an understanding of Jehovah’s other qualities, such as his holiness, justice, wisdom, and love. Jehovah displays these traits in a perfect, balanced way. The Bible thus says: “Perfect is his activity.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) How can you bring these qualities to the fore as you answer questions that are often raised on this issue? Let us consider a few examples.
11, 12. (a) Why was forgiveness not an option when Adam and Eve sinned? (b) Why will Jehovah not tolerate sin forever?
11 Could Jehovah simply have forgiven Adam and Eve? Forgiveness was never an option in this case. As perfect humans, Adam and Eve made a deliberate choice to reject Jehovah’s sovereignty and to accept the guidance of Satan instead. Not surprisingly, there was no sign of repentance on the part of the rebels. However, when people ask about forgiveness in the matter, they may actually be wondering why Jehovah did not simply lower his standard and tolerate the existence of sin and rebellion. The answer involves a quality that is essential to Jehovah’s very nature—his holiness.—Exodus 28:36; 39:30.
12 The Bible emphasizes Jehovah’s holiness hundreds of times. Sadly, though, few people in this corrupt world understand that quality. Jehovah is clean, pure, and separate from all sinfulness. (Isaiah 6:3; 59:2) When it comes to sin, he has arranged for a means of atoning for it, wiping it away, but he will not tolerate it forever. If Jehovah were willing to tolerate sin eternally, we would have no hope for the future. (Proverbs 14:12) In his due time, Jehovah will bring all creation back into a state of holiness. That is certain, for it is the will of the Holy One.
13, 14. Why did Jehovah choose not to destroy the rebels in Eden?
13 Could Jehovah merely have destroyed the rebels in Eden and started over? He certainly had the power to do so; soon he will use that power to destroy all the wicked. ‘Why,’ some may wonder, ‘did he not do so when there were only three sinners in the universe? Would not the spread of sin—and all the misery we see in the world—have been prevented?’ Why did Jehovah not choose that course of action? Deuteronomy 32:4 says: “All his ways are justice.” Jehovah feels very strongly about justice. In fact, “Jehovah is a lover of justice.” (Psalm 37:28) Because of his love of justice, Jehovah refrained from wiping out the rebels in Eden. Why?
14 Satan’s rebellion raised a question regarding the rightness of God’s sovereignty. Jehovah’s sense of justice required that Satan’s challenge be given a just answer. The immediate execution of the rebels, while well-deserved, would not have provided such an answer. It would have provided further evidence of Jehovah’s supremacy in power, but his power was not in question. Furthermore, Jehovah had stated his purpose to Adam and Eve. They were to have offspring and were to fill the earth, subdue it, and have all earthly creation in subjection. (Genesis 1:28) If Jehovah had simply destroyed Adam and Eve, his stated purpose regarding humans would have become empty words. Jehovah’s justice would never allow for such an outcome, for his purpose is always accomplished.—Isaiah 55:10, 11.
15, 16. When people propose alternative “solutions” to the challenge raised in Eden, how may we be able to help them?
15 Could anyone in the universe address the rebellion with greater wisdom than Jehovah? Some people might propose their own “solutions” to the rebellion in Eden. In doing so, however, would they not be suggesting that they could think of better ways to handle the issue? They might not do so out of a wicked motive, but they do not have an understanding of Jehovah and his awe-inspiring wisdom. In writing to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul delved deeply into God’s wisdom, including the “sacred secret” regarding Jehovah’s purpose to use the Messianic Kingdom to bring about the redemption of faithful mankind and to sanctify His holy name. How did Paul feel about the wisdom of the God who devised this purpose? The apostle concluded his letter with these words: “To God, wise alone, be the glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”—Romans 11:25; 16:25-27.
16 Paul understood that Jehovah is “wise alone”—the very pinnacle of wisdom in the universe. What imperfect human could possibly think of a better way to handle anything—let alone the most difficult challenge to divine wisdom ever made? We need, then, to help people share the awe that we feel for the God who is “wise in heart.” (Job 9:4) The better we comprehend Jehovah’s wisdom, the more fully we will trust that his way of handling matters is the best.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
Appreciating Jehovah’s Dominant Quality
17. How can a greater understanding of Jehovah’s love help those who are troubled by God’s permission of suffering?
17 “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) With those striking words, the Bible identifies Jehovah’s dominant quality, the quality that is the most appealing of them all and the most comforting for those troubled by the prevalence of wickedness. Jehovah has shown love in every aspect of the way he has handled sin’s terrible blight upon his creation. Love moved Jehovah to give hope to the sinful offspring of Adam and Eve, providing them with a means to approach Him and come into an approved relationship with Him. Love moved God to provide a ransom that would open the way for full forgiveness of sins and restoration to perfect, everlasting life. (John 3:16) And love has moved him to be patient with mankind, giving as many as possible the opportunity to reject Satan and choose Jehovah as their Sovereign.—2 Peter 3:9.
18. We are blessed to have what insight, and what will we consider in the following article?
18 When one pastor addressed an audience gathered to mark the anniversary of a devastating terrorist attack, he said: “We don’t know the reason that God allows evil and suffering to continue.” How sad! Are we not blessed to have insight into this subject? (Deuteronomy 29:29) And since Jehovah is wise, just, and loving, we know that he will soon end all suffering. In fact, he has promised to do so. (Revelation 21:3, 4) What, though, of all those who have died throughout the centuries? Has Jehovah’s way of handling the challenge in Eden left them without hope? No. Love has moved him to provide for them as well, by means of the resurrection. That will be the subject of the following article.
How Would You Answer?
• What can we say to a person who asks why God allows suffering?
• How are Jehovah’s holiness and his justice manifest in the way he handled the rebels in Eden?
• Why should we help people to come to a greater understanding of Jehovah’s love?
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Seek to help those who are troubled by the suffering in the world
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Faithful David and Habakkuk asked God sincere questions