Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Lesson 4, Part 1


The Sovereignty of God

Only the Holy Scriptures reveal the true and lasting solutions for people's suffering. It is to God's Word that we must look to solve our problems.

Who, according to the Bible, is the ultimate ruler over the nations?

“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” (2 Chronicles 20:6).

How does the Bible compare the power of God to the power of nations?

“Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; . . . and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless” (Isaiah 40:15-17), compare (Isaiah 40:22-23).

Does the Bible reveal how God interacts with nations’ leaders to carry out His will?

“Now in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:1-2); compare (2 Chronicles 36:22).

God revealed to the prophet Jeremiah that after 70 years in Babylonian captivity some of the Jewish people would be allowed to return to their homeland. They would rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple. To fulfill this prophecy, God influenced and perhaps controlled some of the thoughts and decisions of Cyrus, king of Persia. He “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus” so that the king would issue an edict allowing Jerusalem and the temple to be rebuilt.

Can God influence the head of any nation at will?

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD. . . He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).

We can see that the reason God has not stopped human suffering and anguish on the earth is not because He lacks control over what human beings do. He can control even those at the highest levels of government. What we see is that He has chosen to exercise that control exceedingly sparingly.

God has a plan, a great purpose He is working out. That great design requires that He allow people to exercise free will. We have the option to make choices contrary to His law. God—in carrying out His purpose—permits people to make choices that oppose His perfect will.

Grave yard

In Europe the erosion of religious faith began in earnest when the enormity of the suffering and death of World War I hit home to the millions of surviving Europeans.

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