When our boys were young, our family agreed on a list of rules and posted it on our refrigerator. Beside each rule was the penalty if the rule was broken. For example, we had a rule that if there was fighting, they would have to sit in a chair for fifteen minutes.
Did that keep our boys from fighting? No, and when they fought we imposed the predetermined penalty. Ironically, they got angry at us for upholding the rules that we had created as a family.
This is analogous to the Bible’s description for why there is suffering in the world.
Before explaining, it is important to understand that as creator, owner and ruler of the universe, God is not obligated to explain why there is suffering. He doesn’t owe us any explanations or anything.
But thankfully through His Word, God has chosen to explain the issue. He has done so very clearly through three trees:
Tree #1: The Tree in the Garden—the Tree of Death Explains Suffering
If you ever opened a novel and started reading on page 100, you know how confusing it can be. Likewise, we are living in the middle of history. To understand the story, we have to know the beginning and the end.
People ask: “Why doesn’t God make a world where there is no suffering and death?”
The answer is that He did. Mankind’s original habitat which God created in the Garden of Eden was a paradise. There was no illness, no suffering, no conflict, no cruelty, and no death.
In the Garden God gave just one command: “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17).
This is the first of three trees in God’s orchard of answers: “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Adam and Eve had just one restriction—not to eat from it. Yet they chose to rebel and to turn away from God.
Every human being since that time has followed this path of rebellion. This rejection of God and His ways is called “sin.”
We want to think we are deserving of paradise. And like disobedient children, we are inclined to blame God for the consequences of our sin.
But the origin of all suffering and death is sin, which is rebellion against God.
Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”
The fact that we suffer is not God’s fault. He did not create evil. In creating human beings with the ability to choose rebellion, He created the potential for evil, but He did not create evil, suffering and death.
My sister-in-law Donna’s father was killed by a drunk driver in a head-on automobile collision. According to the US Library of Congress, in 1885 the inventor of the first car was Karl Benz. So can we blame him for all the suffering and death that have happened from drunken, careless and reckless driving? Of course not. He did not create all the evil that has come through the automobile. He only created the potential.
We suffer because we live in world of sin or a fallen world. Scripture always assigns the responsibility for sin, evil, suffering and death to us, not to God.
The bottom line is that we all have a problem called sin, which brings our separation from God and is the root of all suffering and death.
In my next blog I will explain the second tree in God’s orchard of answers to suffering and its immense significance. Can you guess what it is? Click here to find out.
Here are links to some of my other articles on suffering and death:
- Four Desperately Hopeless Approaches to Suffering and Death
- My Classmate Bart Ehrman’s Hopeless Response to Suffering
- How to Handle the Death of a Loved One and Other Losses
- How NOT to Handle the Death of a Loved One and Other Losses