“Why the ongoing suffering?” This is a question that many people have asked throughout the course of human history. Theologians typically include discussion about this when dealing with the so-called “Problem of Evil.” This whole topic is huge and beyond the scope of a short blog to deal with it in full, but in this short discussion I would like to give you an answer why the world is what it is, and what God is doing to put an end to all the suffering.
First of all, at a universal level, we can say that the reason why we have suffering is because this is the direct result of the curse of sin and death. In the beginning, God warned Adam that disobedience to His command would bring death (Gen. 2:17). Adam chose to disobey God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, and the immediate result was separation from God (spiritual death that eventually showed itself in physical death). Paul explains that it was through one man’s act of disobedience that death spread to all men (Rom. 5:12). Adam was created in perfect holiness, but ever since Adam every man is born into a state of spiritual death, and that is why all men sin (Rom. 3:23; 5:12) and all men die (cf. Gen. 5). Furthermore, because all men are subject to this curse of sin and death, we also have everything that comes with this spiritual, e.g., hatred, fights, wars, sickness, disease (e.g., Covid-19), and eventually physical death itself.
Right now in the news you and I are hearing a lot about death (I wish they would talk about all the recoveries, too [about 96%+ of all who do get infected by the virus]). As of today (March 31), however, over 850,000 have gotten sick from the Covid-19 virus worldwide, and over 40,000 have died. Each one of these lives has fallen prey to the curse of sin and death that Adam introduced to this world.
However, we know that in the big picture Covid-19 is a very small contributor to human death. Just last night I saw an online message from a pastor friend of mine in California (Lance) whose wife (Beth) had died yesterday afternoon. Two years ago the doctors told this faithful woman of God that she had stage-four (non-smoker) lung cancer. Lance and Beth did everything they could to knock the cancer out, but in the end the cancer won the battle (NOT the war, but only this momentary battle that we fight in this world). Again, I ask the question: Why does all this suffering continue?
The answer to this question is that we cannot have an end to suffering and death until we have an end of sin. The Bible shows us that this is precisely what God is at work to do. Two-thousand years ago God sent His Son Jesus Christ to lay down His life to pay the price of our sins. Isaiah 53:5 tells us that when Jesus Christ died on the cross (2,000 years after Isaiah’s words) “He was pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” God’s Son paid the price for all of our sins. God’s promise is that the one who trusts in Him will find perfect forgiveness of all sins and restoration from the curse of sin and death. To the believer, God’s promise is that of a perfect redemption from every trace of sin and death. However, as long as we are in this world, all of us are still sinners and all of us are still living in a sin-cursed world where suffering and death continue to be realities.
God’s Word also contains the promise that when His Son returns and brings the kingdom of God to this world, the curse will one day be lifted. As it is, says Paul in Romans 8:18-27, at the present time the whole creation “groans” (longs) for the arrival of this day (Rom. 8:18-22). It also says that God’s children “groan” (long) for the arrival of this day (Rom. 8:23-25). It also says that even the Spirit of God who indwells every believer “groans” (longs) for the arrival of this day (Rom. 8:26-26). God is faithful to His promises, and He has even given us His Holy Spirit as the certain promise that He will fulfill this promise (Rom. 8:24; 2 Cor. 5:5) so we know He will fulfill this promise. That day IS coming, but for now we must walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
The Bible shows us that the ultimate and final removal of sin and death is not going to come until God purges it all from His creation at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:11-15). God’s certain promise is that all sin and death will be banished forever (1 Cor. 15:26, 50-58), and God will bring a complete end to this present fallen order and usher in a new heavens and new earth where those things will be gone forever (Rev. 21:1-5).
That day is coming. I encourage you to find strength and hope by fixing your eyes on the promises of God’s redeeming grace.
Love, Pastor Tim