Sin and Suffering, the Problem of Evil



{1}...... Why is the problem of evil so important?


{2}...... How is the problem of evil used to argue against God?

{3}...... Did God create evil? (metaphysical dimension of evil)

{4}...... Why does God permit evil to exist?

{5}...... Why couldn’t God create a world that has no evil? (moral dimension of evil)

{6}...... What is the cause of sufferings in the world? (physical dimension of evil)

{7}...... Why doesn’t God use His power to prevent sufferings?

{8}...... Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?

{9}...... Why does God allow His children (Christians) to suffer?


{10}.... Is suffering a temptation from Satan?

{11}.... How should we respond to our own suffering?

{12}.... How do we help those who suffer?







{1}           Why is the problem of evil so important?

ANSWER: It is the most difficult question for Christianity to answer.


There are two kinds of evil: [a] abstract evil – spiritual evil of of sins such as pride and hatred, evil that we actively commit, and [b] tangible evil – physical evil of pain and suffering, evil that we passively suffer.

Because abstract evil (sin) brought tangible evil (suffering), the former is the greater evil. Sin was originated from the Fall of the devil, followed by the Fall of man in Eden.

It is important that all Christians understand the problem of evil because:

[1]        Apologetics: Christianity can provide satisfactory answers to all questions of life, except one, the problem of evil. This is exactly why atheists try to use this problem to argue against the existence of God. Therefore, Christians must understand the problem and can then respond to questions from non-believers.

[2]        Evangelism: Evil is universal. Everyone wonders why bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, it becomes the main obstacle for people to accept the gospel. Christians need to know how to help non-believers overcome this obstacle.

[3]        Counselling: Evil is intensely practical. Everyone experiences various kinds of pain and suffering, including physical pain like sickness and injuries, emotional (psychological) pain like fear and anxiety, spiritual pain like doubt and despair. Many feel helpless and angry about the existence of abstract evil in the world, like cruelty, jealousy. Out of despair, a suffering person may turn to blame God. Christians need to know how to answer the questions about evil in order to help those who suffer.



{2}           How is the problem of evil used to argue against God?

ANSWER: It is used to prove that there is no omnipotent loving God.


[1]        Main Argument: The Bible teaches that God is perfectly loving (Ps 145:9,13; Jn 3:16) and is all powerful (Gen 35:11; Job 11:7; Rev 1:8). But the existence of both an omnipotent loving God and evil appears contradictory. The argument:

·         If there is a perfectly loving God, He would want to eliminate evil.

·         If there is an all powerful God, He has the power to eliminate evil completely.

·         But evil exists in the world today, so there are apparently only 3 possibilities: [a] God is not perfectly loving, or [b] God is not all powerful, or [c] there is no God.

Ps 145:9,13
The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made…. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.

Jn 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Gen 35:11 [God calls Himself Almighty]
And God said to him, “I am God Almighty.”

Job 11:7 [God is called Almighty]
Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

Rev 1:8
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

[2]        3 types of attacks on God:

·         [a] God is not perfectly loving. (Sadism)

o        Argument: God is EITHER sadistic, acting as the supreme enemy of man [in Albert Camus (1947): The plague] OR does not care about the problems and tragedies of man [in Thomas Carlyle (1834): Sartor Resartus].

·         [b] God is not all powerful. (Finitism)

o        Argument: God’s power is finite and limited, and He has insufficient power to defeat evil [in Harold Kushner (1981): When bad things happen to good people]. Or perhaps, God did not foresee evil when He created the world.

·         [c] There is no God. (Atheism)

o        Argument: An all-powerful God could destroy evil, and would not allow innocent suffering. An all-loving God would destroy evil, and prevent innocent suffering. But evil is not destroyed, and there are innocent suffering in the world. Hence, there is not an all-powerful, all-loving God.


{3}           Did God create evil? (metaphysical dimension of evil)

ANSWER: No, evil is not created because it is not a concrete thing.


Evil is a condition but not a positive reality. It lacks any substance, thus it does not require the causal activity of God.

·         Evil is not a thing or a substance that needs creation. Augustine describes it as a privation of goodness.

·         “Privation” means a lack of something or an absence of something that should be there. For example, sickness can be considered a privation or lack of good health. Blindness is a lack of sight. Another good example is a hole in a piece of wood. It is a quality but not a thing.

Evil is not created by God but is permitted by God.


{4}           Why does God permit evil to exist?

ANSWER: Evil comes out of human free choice; free choice is a precondition for love.


Theodicy is the rational defence of the justice of God in view of the presence of evil. Since God is all knowing (Isa 46:10), He knew evil will exist even before He created the world.

Isa 46:10
(God) declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’

There are 3 main arguments in theodicy:

[1]        Evil is the product of human free choice. (Augustine)

·         God gave the world the power of free choice. But with that freedom comes the capability of choosing wrongly and actualizing (causing the existence of) evil. Man used this freedom to sin so that evil came into the world.

·         A perfectly loving God created the world because of love. God does not need love, but if He is love, it is understandable that He would want to love and to be loved. He would give love by sharing His glory and goodness, and receive love by being worshipped by His creation.

·         Why didn’t God create a world that has no free choice? He could not. Otherwise, human beings will become robots. There is and can be no love without freedom. No one can be coerced into loving another. Love includes the provision of a choice. Either love exists freely or it does not exist at all. True freedom includes the possibility of choosing wrongly.

·         Evil is the corruption that arises when created man turns away from the infinite good of the Creator to the lesser good of the creatures, that is, the creature considers its own finite good more important than the good offered by the Creator. Pride is the beginning of all sin, the ultimate source of privation.

·         God would desire to destroy evil and He has the power to do so. But it would be impossible to destroy or annihilate evil without also doing away with the moral universe and free choice.

[2]        Temporary evil is permitted for the goal of eternal good. (Aquinas)

·         Greatest way theodicy of Aquinas: temporary evil for eternal good. God permits evil because this evil world is the best possible way to the best possible world. God deliberately permits evil to exist in this world in order to produce the best end result.

·         Evil is temporary; both sin and suffering will eventually be eradicated. Innocent suffering that has not apparent justification in the present may still be ultimately justified. Even God Himself suffered for the ultimate good.

·         Augustine says: “God can bring good even out of evil.” (Isa 55:9)

Isa 55:9
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

[3]        Evil is the precondition for greater good.

·         The existence of good depends on the existence of evil. For example, a healthy body requires often painful exercise. Patience cannot be produced without tribulation, nor mercy without tragedy. Courage is possible only where fear is a reality. (Jas 1:2-3)

Jas 1:2-3
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

·         Analogy in aesthetics: Contrasts heighten beauty, for example, dissonant chords in a musical work make subsequent harmonious chords sound sweeter. We would not have noticed the goodness of God without the contrast of evil. For example, the concepts of great and small are relative. If there is no small thing, then all large things will not be regarded as large.

·         However, this should only be used as a supplementary reason because of circular reasoning. Just like Hegel’s thesis and antithesis, where will it end?

o        first-order good (1) of pleasure and happiness

o        first-order evil (1x) of pain and disease

o        second-order good (2) of benevolence and sympathy

o        second-order evil (2x) of malevolence and cruelty

o        third-order good (3) of human freedom.


{5}           Why couldn’t God create a world that has no evil? (moral dimension of evil)

ANSWER: No, otherwise there will be not be a moral world.


A moral world is one that distinguishes right from wrong. Without free choice to commit wrong, there is no moral world. The word “moral” relates to the exercise of self will.

In creation, God had 4 alternatives:

·         (1) God could have chosen not to create any world at all. [No World]

·         (2) God could have chosen to make a world without free creatures in it. [Amoral World]

·         (3) God could have brought about a world where creatures were free but would never sin. [Morally Innocent World]

·         (4) God could have created a world where men are free and can sin. [Morally Fallen World]

God did not choose alternative (1) because as a God of love, He created the world to share His love.

God did not choose alternatives (2) and (3) because:

·         An amoral world (alternative 2) includes no free choice and no free choice means no love.

·         A morally innocent world (alternative 3) includes a free choice but the creatures are not allowed to choose evil. It is coercive love but love must be persuasive, not coercive. Forced love is not really love.

·         Freedom is an absolute essential to a truly moral universe. Love cannot be programmed. Love is personal and subjective. No amount of impersonal and objective programming can produce a true loving response.

God chose alternative (4), a morally fallen world because:

·         It is a greater good to at least have the opportunity to achieve the highest virtues and pleasures even though those virtues are not always attained by everyone. (“maximum possible opportunities for ultimate satisfaction”)

·         This world is the one where the greatest number of persons are given the maximal eternal joy and where the freedom of all creatures is respected.


{6}           What is the cause of sufferings in the world? (physical dimension of evil)

ANSWER: Man is the cause of most sufferings.


[1]        Most sufferings are caused by man:

·         [a]  directly from our own free choices, e.g. abuse of one’s body such as smoking

·         [b]  indirectly from the exercise of our freedom, e.g. poverty from laziness

·         [c]  directly from the free choices of others, e.g. child abuse

·         [d] indirectly from the free choices of others., e.g. improper prenatal care

·         [e]  a necessary by-product of other good activities, e.g. accident in physical exercise, flood caused by rain

[2]        Some sufferings are caused by evil spirits:

·         [f]  malevolence done by evil spirits, e.g. Job’s sufferings, possession by evil spirits (Mt 17:14-15,18)

Mt 17:14-15,18
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.”… And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.

[3]        Some sufferings are brought by God for beneficial purposes:

·         [g]  God-given warnings of greater physical evils, e.g. toothaches, chest pains

·         [h]  God’s warning about moral evils; alerting men to danger, thereby promoting the avoidance of moral evil (such as the catastrophes in OT Prophets)

[4]        Some are natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, plagues):

·         [i]   natural occurrences after the original perfect world order was destroyed and the environment was corrupted as a result of sin; may not be initiated by God


{7}           Why doesn’t God use His power to prevent sufferings?

ANSWER: The world will then be without order.


God does not miraculously intervene and prevent all physical evil from occurring because:

[1]        Continual divine interference would disrupt the regularity of natural law and make orderly life impossible.

[2]        The necessary divine intervention may be so frequent that there is no more human freedom and responsibility.

[3]        In a world of constant divine intervention of evil actions, all moral learning would cease. The development of various virtues through real life experience will not be possible.

[4]        On the other hand, God is intercepting some evils by placing good influences in the world (such as the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Christians, and the moral law). Occasionally, God will directly intervene through miracles when necessary.


{8}           Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?

ANSWER: No one is innocent; also, sufferings are caused by man, and God does not intervene every time.


[1]        No one is completely innocent.

·         The description of “innocent people” is only relative, not absolute.

·         We commit numerous explicit sins but also unnoticed sins. Some common unnoticed sins include self-centredness, I-need-it-right-now mentality, using evil means to achieve selfish ends, giving excuses for wrong deeds, neglecting rightful duties.

·         We may have a feeling of unfairness when experiencing sufferings. Yet we also need to remember that we have hurt others many times in the past, sometimes unconsciously or unintentionally.

[2]        Some apparent innocent suffering may have a cause, for example, children may suffer because of the sins of the parents (Ex 20:5; 34:7; Nu 14:18; Dt 5:9), such as infants with AIDS, or handicapped newborns because of the mother’s addiction to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.

Ex 20:5
I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.

Ex 34:7
visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.

Nu 14:18
The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.

Dt 5:9
I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.

[3]        Yet, we have to admit that some innocent suffering has no apparent justification and that we do not have a satisfactory answer. Although we cannot answer satisfactorily at the present, yet there still may ultimately be a justification in the future. (Job 42:3)

Job 42:3
I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.


{9}           Why does God allow His children (Christians) to suffer?

ANSWER: Sufferings can have positive effects.


God as a loving, caring, and omnipotent Father will never want or allow His children to suffer for no reasons. Yet, just like a father, He sometimes permits his children to suffer (Ac 14:22) because of many benefits.

Ac 14:22
strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.


[1]        Suffering is an avoidable part of life.

·         [a]  Suffering is a natural consequence of being human. Christians, like other people, live in the same world and experience similar sufferings.

·         [b]  Suffering is also a natural consequence of being a Christian (1Pe 2:21). Christians may be persecuted because of their faith (Mt 5:11-12). It is described as a baptism of fire, resulted from the conflict of values between believers and non-believers (Lk 3:16; 2Ti 3:12).

1Pe 2:21
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Mt 5:11-12
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

Lk 3:16
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

2Ti 3:12
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

[2]        Suffering can have positive effects for the Christian who suffers. It has educational value for spiritual and psychological growth. It is a refining process for deeper faith (1Pe 1:6-7), like gold refined by fire (Rev 3:18).

1Pe 1:6-7
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Rev 3:18
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich.

·         [a]  Training (rebuke) and purification: (Heb 12:5-6,11; Rev 3:19)

o        Force us to leave sin, repent and be holy

o        Shock us out of potentially disastrous thinking

o        Prove that God still loves

Heb 12:5-6
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.

Heb 12:11
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Rev 3:19
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.

·         [b]  Humility and reliance:

o        Keep us from pride; keep us humble (2Co 12:10); keep us in touch with the facts of human frailty; keep us out of illusory contentment

o        Force us to break down self-reliance and rely on God

o        Force us to obey and receive subsequent blessings (Rom 8:17)

2Co 12:10
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Ro 8:17
if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

·         [c]  Strength and steadfastness:

o        Strengthen character (higher tolerance)

o        Produce steadfastness and patience (Jas 1:3-4)

o        Remind us of Christ’s suffering for us

Jas 1:3-4
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

·         [d] Compassion and empathy:

o        Help one to learn compassion and sympathy for suffering people

·         [e]  Hope:

o        Cause us to look beyond this brief life; remind us that the world is not our permanent home and we should not love the world (Heb 11:13-16; 13:14)

o        Help us to reconsider the true meaning and value of life, the changeability of the world and the non-changeability of God

Heb 11:13-16
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Heb 13:14
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

[3]        Suffering may be beneficial for others.

·         [a]  Evangelism:

o        Suffering leads to conversion; persecution leads to evangelization. For example, martyrs in early church demonstrated their courage in facing death for their faith attracted many non-believers to seek the gospel. That is why the blood of martyrs has been described as the seeds of the gospel.

o        [Related to this issue but not about Christian suffering: A non-believing person is forced by suffering (such as terminal illness) to think about meaning of life and may subsequently come to Christ. Some people describe cancer as a Christianizing disease because it provides ample time for the patient to reflect on the meaning of life while waiting for death, at least the threat of death.]

·         [b]  Witness:

o        Our courage in encountering suffering with peace can demonstrate our faith to non-believers and attract them to the gospel. It can also encourage other Christians.

·         [c]  Ability to help:

o        One’s suffering will enable one to later comfort others who have similar sufferings (2Co 1:3-5). Those who suffer are more willing to listen to someone who suffered the same fate in the past.

2Co 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

·         [d] Fellowship:

o        The fellowship will be stronger after passing through the same suffering together.

[4]        Sufferings sometimes give God the opportunity to demonstrate His power (Jn 9:1-3; 11:4).

Jn 9:1-3
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Jn 11:4
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”


However, we should not simply emphasize the benefits of suffering and conclude that all suffering is good. Suffering can also break the spirit, destroy the character, and sap the energy for spiritual growth.



{10}     Is suffering a temptation from Satan?

ANSWER: It could be, or it could turn into one.


[1]        Three sources of temptation (see temptation of Jesus in Mt 4:1-10):

·         Satan the tempter (through subconscious suggestions, 1Th 3:5)

·         ourselves (from our own desires, Jas 1:14; 1Ti 6:9)

·         the world (explicit suggestions from our surroundings, 1Jn 2:15-16)

1Th 3:5
For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labour would be in vain.

Jas 1:14
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

1Ti 6:9
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

1Jn 2:15-16
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

[2]        God is never the source of temptation (Jas 1:13). He will only permit those temptations that we can bear and He promised to provide a way out (1Co 10:13).

Jas 1:13
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

1Co 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

[3]        Sometimes, the suffering is originally neither a temptation nor a test but suffering can turn into a stumbling block to our spiritual journey (for example, blaming God) and in effect becomes a temptation. That is why Christians need to be cautious when suffering comes.


{11}     How should we respond to our own suffering?

ANSWER: Do not blame man but rely on God.


[1]        General attitude:

·         Avoid the suffering that can be avoided rightly.

·         Remedy the suffering that can be remedied rightly.

·         Accept and make use of the suffering that, without doing evil, can neither be avoided nor remedied.

[2]        Passive actions:

·         Must avoid improper reaction: blame men (or self), blame God, feel helpless

·         Stop wrong attitudes, such as attitude of “hang on to” something (either something lost or something wished for)

·         Dispel feeling of unfairness; forgive those who hurt us

·         Clear up own sins (if these are the probable cause of suffering)

[3]        Active actions:

·         Remember how Christ also suffered (Isa 53:4-5; Heb 2:18; 1Pe 2:21)

o        Hymn: “Are you lonely? Really lonely? Jesus was more lonely still.”

Isa 53:4-5 [Jesus also suffered]
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Heb 2:18 [Jesus also suffered]
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

1Pe 2:21 [We follow Christ’s example of suffering]
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

·         Think of suffering as following Christ’s suffering (Mt 16:24; Php 3:10, bearing “our” cross)

Mt 16:24 [We have to bear our cross]
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Php 3:10 [We share Christ’s suffering]
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

·         Find values in suffering and be joyful (Php 4:4; Rom 12:12)

Php 4:4 [Always rejoice, even in suffering]
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Rom 12:12 [Be patient]
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

[4]        Rely on God:

·         Remember that God’s love is always with us in sufferings, even though consolation may not be apparent (Ro 8:38-39; Mt 5:4)

Ro 8:38-39 [God’s love is always with us]
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Mt 5:4 [Suffered person will be comforted]
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

·         Hold onto God’s promise: He is our refuge (Ps 46:1), our strength (Ps 28:7), our shepherd (Ps 23:1; Isa 40:11)

Ps 46:1 [God is our refuge]
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Ps 28:7 [God is our strength]
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

Ps 23:1 [God is our shepherd]
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Isa 40:11 [God is our shepherd]
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

·         Be assured that God’s grace is sufficient (2Co 12:9) and all things work together for the good (Ro 8:28)

2Co 12:9 [God’s grace is sufficient]
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Ro 8:28 [Everything will turn out good]
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

·         Abandon self (self-denial, Gal 2:19-20) to the will of God (letting-go, not hanging-on, Job 1:21)

Gal 2:19-20 [God lives in me]
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Job 1:21 [Obey God’s will]
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

·         Think about the glorious future that God prepared for us (2Co 4:16-5:3; Ro 8:18; Rev 21:4).

o        Teresa of Avila says: “The most miserable earthly life, seen from the perspective of heaven, looks like one night in an inconvenient hotel.”

o        A hymn says: “God hath not promised skies always blue,/ Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;/ God hath not promised sun without rain,/ Joy without sorrow, peace without pain./ But God hath promised strength for the day,/ Rest for the labour, light for the way;/ Grace for the trials, help from above,/ Unfailing kindness, undying love.”

2Co 4:16-5:3 [Focus on eternity]
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.

Ro 8:18 [Hope for future glory]
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Rev 21:4 [No more suffering in eternal life]
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.


{12}     How do we help those who suffer?

ANSWER: Share the suffering and suggest reliance on God.


All these suggestions depend on individual situations. Ask for God’s guidance and use your wisdom to select the appropriate actions.

[1]        Be available: visit the suffering person, only if it is agreeable as some suffering persons prefer not to see visitors. If so, do not insist.

[2]        Share the suffering: remain with the person and stay quiet. In most cases, no words are needed. (Job 2:12-13)

Job 2:12-13
And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

[3]        Be sensitive: do not ask questions, definitely no questions about the causes and details of suffering. If the person shares about the suffering, listen patiently and attentively but do not ask questions. (Job 16:1-4)

Job 16:1-4
Then Job answered and said: “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all. Shall windy words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you and shake my head at you.

[4]        Offer support: where appropriate, offer verbal support (encouragement: you are in our prayers, suffering will eventually end) and offer practical help (share the required work such as chores and transportation).

[5]        Read the Bible: when appropriate, ask for permission to read the Bible together (see supplementary Bible verses below).

[6]        Offer to pray together: ask God for strength (to overcome the suffering) and for deliverance.


Ps 130:5-8 [God has steadfast love]
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Heb 13:5-6 [God is our helper]
be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Jn 14:27 [God provides peace]
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Ro 5:1-5 [We have peace with God]
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Mt 11:28-29 [Come to God for peace]
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

2Co 7-9 [Paul’s sickness, God’s grace is sufficient]
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Isa 55:12-13 [Will eventually be joyful]
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Ps 126:5-6 [Will eventually be joyful]
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.




The problem of evil is the most difficult question for Christianity to answer. Every Christian should study and understand it.

To deal with this problem, God gives Christians the assured hope (based on God’s promise in the Bible) that God will destroy and annihilate evil in the future. More than just hope in the future, God gives Christians the strength and power in the present life to overcome all the negative feelings linked with sufferings.

There are excellent logical responses to various questions surrounding this problem (Q.3 to 9). However, all good logical, apologetical, theological, or Biblical explanations are useless when facing the reality of pain and suffering. When one is in the midst of suffering, none of the rational answers make sense. So rational explanations should be understood before sufferings come.

When someone is in sufferings, Christians should give direct support in person (Q.12) and moral support through reliance on God (no.5 in Q.11).

We have to admit that one or two questions (innocent suffering, Christian suffering) may have no fully satisfactory answers.

·         We have to trust God’s heart. Remember how God has loved us and blessed us in the past, so be assured that God will surely lead us pass the present difficulty. (2Co 1:10)

·         We will understand the real reason behind all our sufferings when we see God. (1Co 13:12)

·         It is certain that all God’s actions are just and that all questions will be satisfactorily answered in the end even if we cannot imagine so right now.

2Co 1:10 [Remember God’s blessings]
He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

1Co 13:12 [Reason for suffering will eventually be understood]
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.


Main Reference for apologetical discussions: Norman L. Geisler (1978): The roots of evil.





Are you lonely? (Hymns of Life no.338, Anonymous Author)


1.         Are you lonely? Really lonely? Jesus was more lonely still,

            Came as man to earth from heaven, Bore disgrace and treatment ill.

            He was lonely in the city, More alone on Calv’ry’s hill.

            Not one soul with Him to suffer, O what grief His heart did fill.


2.         Are you weary? Really weary? Jesus was more worn than you.

            As He bore the cross to Calv’ry, Cruel torture He endured.

            Weary, sleepless in the garden, Bending ‘neath sin’s crushing load,

            As He kneeled and prayed in anguish, Sweat did fall like drops of blood.


3.         Are you needy? Really needy? Jesus poorer was than you.

            Nests for birds and holes for foxes, Only He ran to and fro.

            Place to place He walked a lifetime, Preaching truth to heedless men;

            As a babe born in a stable, Buried in a stranger’s tomb.


4.         Are you burdened? Really burdened? Jesus’ load was greater yet.

            He can carry all our sorrows, Comfort us when griefs beset.

            He Himself bore heavy burdens, Wore a thorn crown, suffered pain.

            On the cross He hanged in anguish, Died that we might heaven gain.



Sonnet: Death, Be Not Proud!


DEATH, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so:

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death; nor yet canst thou kill me.

From Rest and Sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow;

And soonest our best men with thee do go—

Rest of their bones and souls’ delivery!

Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,

And better than thy stroke. Why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!


John Donne (1572-1631)