Why Does Jehovah Allow Suffering?
10, 11. (a) According to Romans 8:19-22, what happened to “all creation”? (b) How may we determine who it was that subjected creation to futility?
10 A passage in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans sheds light on this important subject. Paul wrote: “The eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. For 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. For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.”—Romans 8:19-22.
11 To grasp the point of these verses, we first need to resolve some key questions. For instance, Who subjected the creation to futility? Some have pointed to Satan; others to Adam. But neither could have done the subjecting. Why not? Because the one who subjects the creation to futility does so “on the basis of hope.” Yes, he offers hope that faithful ones will eventually be “set free from enslavement to corruption.” Neither Adam nor Satan could offer such a hope. Only Jehovah could. Clearly, then, it was he who subjected creation to futility.
12. What confusion has arisen as to the identity of “all creation,” and how may this question be answered?
12 What, though, is “all creation” referred to in this passage? Some say that “all creation” refers to the entire natural world, including animals and vegetation. But do beasts and plants hope to attain “the glorious freedom of the children of God”? No. (2 Peter 2:12) “All creation,” then, can refer only to mankind. This is the creation that is affected by sin and death because of the rebellion in Eden and that lives in desperate need of hope.—Romans 5:12.
13. What did the rebellion in Eden do to mankind?
13 What, exactly, did that rebellion do to mankind? Paul describes its results with a single word: futility.* According to one reference work, this word describes “the futility of an object which does not function as it was designed to do.” Humans were designed to live forever, working together as a perfect, united family in taking care of a paradisaic earth. Instead, they lead a short, painful, and often frustrating existence. As Job put it, “man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation.” (Job 14:1) Futility indeed!
14, 15. (a) What evidence of justice do we find in Jehovah’s sentence upon mankind? (b) Why did Paul say that creation was subjected to futility “not by its own will”?
14 Now we come to the key question: Why did “the Judge of all the earth” subject mankind to this painful, frustrating existence? (Genesis 18:25) Was he just in doing so? Well, remember what our first parents did. In rebelling against God, they took sides with Satan, who raised a sweeping challenge to Jehovah’s sovereignty. By their actions, they supported the assertion that man is better off without Jehovah, ruling himself under the guidance of a rebel spirit creature. In sentencing the rebels, Jehovah, in effect, gave them what they asked for. He allowed man to rule himself under the influence of Satan. Under the circumstances, what decision could be more profoundly just than subjecting mankind to futility but on the basis of hope?
15 Of course, this was not creation’s “own will.” We are born as slaves to sin and corruption without any choice in the matter. But Jehovah in his mercy allowed Adam and Eve to live out their lives and bear offspring. Though we, their descendants, are subjected to the futility of sin and death, we have the opportunity to do what Adam and Eve failed to do. We can listen to Jehovah and learn that his sovereignty is righteous and ideal, while human rule apart from Jehovah brings only pain, frustration, and futility. (Jeremiah 10:23; Revelation 4:11) And Satan’s influence only makes matters worse. Human history testifies to these truths.—Ecclesiastes 8:9.
16. (a) Why may we be certain that Jehovah is not responsible for the suffering we see in the world today? (b) What hope has Jehovah lovingly provided for faithful people?
16 Clearly, Jehovah had just reasons for subjecting mankind to futility. Does that mean, though, that Jehovah is the cause of the futility and suffering that afflict each one of us today? Well, think of a judge who pronounces a just sentence upon a criminal. The convict may suffer considerably while he serves out his sentence, but can he rightly blame the judge for being the cause of his suffering? By no means! Furthermore, Jehovah is never the source of wickedness. James 1:13 says: “With evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” Let us remember, too, that Jehovah pronounced this sentence “on the basis of hope.” He has lovingly made arrangements for faithful descendants of Adam and Eve to see the end of futility and to delight in “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Throughout eternity, faithful mankind will never have to worry that all creation might again descend into a painful state of futility. Jehovah’s just handling of things will have established the rightfulness of his sovereignty for all time.—Isaiah 25:8.