(2 Corinthians 4:1-4)
As a Christian I have heard this question posed many times by non-believers who believe it is a plausible argument for the non-existence of God. It is a question that smacks of hypocrisy because those who pose it do not believe in God in the first place. They say, “If God is good why do people suffer,” or some variation of this such as good people suffering, innocent children suffering or just the fact that the world is full of suffering.
But the argument itself suffers from one fatal flaw. The question is wrong because It is based on a false premise.
The underlying premise of this question is that God, who is all-seeing and all-knowing, is the God of this world where people live and suffer. And that is where the argument falls apart, as we see in this section of scripture.
God is Good
First, let us consider who and what God is. God is the epitome and the fulness of all that is good.
The bible tells us that,
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. – (1 John 4:8)
God is love. This is the key and most important thing we know and understand about God. There is nothing in this world that is greater than love and love is of God because God is love.
There are many other scriptures that attest to the goodness of God when you stop to consider them.
For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life – (John 3:16)
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. – (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
The love of God is without bounds and without end. He wishes every person to come to salvation because He is God and because in His love He wants what is best for mankind.
There is no question at all that God is good. So if this is true, why do people suffer? And it is here that the fallacy of this argument fails in the light of the truth.
The God of this World
The primary belief underpinning this lie, is that those who propose it believe that the good God, who is the God of love, is also the God of this world. And unfortunately that is not true.
Look at what the scriptures in 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 tell us.
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – (2 Corinthians 4:1-4)
In the first few verses we see Paul explain that we who are in Christ reject all that is evil and will not tamper with the truth of the word of God. He adds also that the gospel of the truth in Jesus Christ is veiled to those who choose to do wrong, and especially veiled to those who are perishing because they fail to accept the truth of the gospel.
Who is it that has pulled this veil down over their eyes to blind them to all that is good? Paul makes it clear that it is the “…god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Now if this “god” has blinded and veiled the eyes of those who are perishing, it is clear that this “god” is not the God of love.
We see who this “god” is in the temptation of Christ when he wandered the wilderness for forty days and nights without food.
5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. – (Luke 4:5-6)
The one who has authority over all the kingdoms of this world is Satan, the devil. As we see in this verse, it is he who has the authority and power over all kingdoms of this world for they have been delivered into his hand, and he gives the authority and glory of the kingdoms of the world to whomever he chooses.
It is Satan who is the ruler of this world, and he is referred to by that title in a number of places.
We see the devil, who controls this world does not govern it for the good of man, but for his own evil devices.
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. – (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Here is another name for the devil. It is Satan who is the prince of the power of the air who rules this world. And as we see in this verse, he is the spirit that is working in the sons of disobedience who carry out the desires of the body and mind, following their own lustful passions, and who are children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Now if it is the devil who rules and who is working in people to promote and follow paths of disobedience, lustful passions and wrath, is it surprising that the people in this world suffer? Where people are governed by an evil and vindictive spirit, Satan himself, then is it any surprise that people, children and the innocent in this world suffer?
No, it is no surprise at all. In fact it should be more of a surprise that people can escape this ruler who plots the downfall, destruction and suffering of every person on this earth. It is because Satan is the ruler of this earth rather than the one true God that people suffer. It is not God who controls the day-to-day lives of people and brings suffering upon them all, it is Satan who does this for he is the ruler of this world.
Jesus shows us another distinction between God the Father, who is the God of live, and the devil who is the ruler of this world.
30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. – (John 14:30-31)
Note here that the ruler of this world, who is the devil, was coming to lead the people to put Jesus Christ to death. But Jesus knew that the devil had no claim on Christ, and in other translations it says the devil had no power over Christ, because Christ had no sin in Him. But rather it was through obedience to the Father that Christ suffered as He did so that we could receive life through His ultimate sacrifice.
How Shall We Find Good?
In this world and following the ways of this world you can never find good. But God the Father has provided us with the way of escape from this world through Jesus Christ.
He established the means by which man can step out of the kingdom of this world and enter the kingdom of God through accepting Jesus Christ by faith and being baptised into His death and resurrection. We have a way to step aside from this world ruled by Satan and into the kingdom of Heaven ruled by God.
And when we do, we have a protection that is not given to those who choose to reject the ways of God but seek to continue living in the evil of this world. God protects us from the designs of the devil so that we have the victory through our faith in Jesus Christ. Consider this verse as an example.
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” – (Luke 13:1-5)
These two examples show people who suffered death in this world. The people who were telling Jesus of the people who Pontius Pilate murdered for sacrificial purposes, may well have been thinking how sad it was that innocent people suffered in this way. They may have been similar to those who argue today asking “if God is good, why do people suffer.”
But consider what Jesus said in answer to them. He asked whether they thought these people were any worse than any others at the time. And Jesus also mentioned eighteen people who died tragically when a tower in Siloam fell on them, again asking if those around Him thought they were worse sinners than anyone else.
In both examples Jesus explained that these unfortunate people who died were no worse than anyone else, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But more importantly, Jesus went on to say that, “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
By repenting and coming to Christ Jesus, there is a protection that was not afforded to all those people who died. Through repentance and turning to God, there is a way of escape so that we do not have to suffer the same as the rest of the world does. The rest of the world remain under the power of Satan because they are in this world as citizens of the world, but when we come to Christ we escape the kingdom of this world and enter the kingdom of God, no longer citizens of this world but citizens of the kingdom of God.
So,when we consider the question, “If God is good, why do people suffer,” it is quite easy to see what the truth of the matter is. The reasons that people suffer in this world is because they reject God and so remain under the power of the ruler of this world who is Satan and who embodies all that is evil. But if that same person turns to God through faith in Christ Jesus, they have the ability to leave the kingdom of the world, ruled by the devil, and enter the kingdom of heaven ruled by God, and that is a far, far better place to be.
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